“Delicious Diwali Lights, Clothing, Food!”
“May Lakshmi” — the Hindu goddess of prosperity — “bless you with good fortune.”
“May Diwali’s light brighten your day.”
Members of the Indian community will exchange these greetings, most likely in one of the 14 languages of India, when Diwali (aka Deepavali or Dipavali), the festival of lights, begins on Oct. 24. Diwali lasts five days and is arguably the most wonderful time of the year for the millions of people across the globe who practice the Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions.
“Diwali is like Christmas, people put up lamps in their houses but they also do fireworks like we do on the Fourth of July,” Dinesh Sanghavi, who runs Indian Groceries & Spices in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin with his wife, Bharti, said.
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What is Diwali?
Diwali is a festival that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.
To prepare for the holiday, Indian families clean and decorate their homes and dress up in traditional garb: saris for women and kurtas for men. Every Diwali celebration includes an elaborate spread of Indian sweet and savory treats.
Indian Groceries & Spices by the Sanghavis has reached global base
The Sanghavis’ store has grown from small beginnings to rank among the biggest suppliers of Indian goods nationwide.
The store now occupies a sprawling 25,000-square-foot space in Wauwatosa. In 2000, the Sanghavis launched an ecommerce business, which grew out of their then teen son’s school assignment.
“My son Neil set up a website for the store as a project at Nicolet High School,” Dinesh Sanghavi said.
That project has grown to become ishopindian.com, now a global destination that bills itself as the largest online store for all things Indian including basmati rice, several types of ghee, a huge selection of chai teas and prepared foods.
And, in addition to their online and physical business, Bharti Sanghavi shares traditional holiday recipes along with everyday favorites in her book “Beyond the Curry with Bharti.”
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Sweets for the feast
Diwali, like most holiday celebrations, calls for advance preparation.
“Diwali starts the few days before when people clean their houses and decorate and make their homes beautiful,” Bharti Sanghavi said.
A yogurt-based dish, shrikhand, is often featured as part of the celebration.
“We use yogurt because we don’t want to boil milk … it’s not auspicious. I’m from the west part of India; not boiling milk is a tradition in our community, and it’s pretty common throughout India,” she said.
The rich yogurt also gets extra sweetness and flavor, with nuts, sugar and cardamom, she said.
For the Sanghavi family, it wouldn’t be Diwali without ghughara, a pastry filled with almonds and pistachios. The recipe gets rave reviews.
“Anyone who tastes our recipe says, ‘This is the best ghughara I’ve ever eaten,’ ” Bharti Sanghavi said.
A variety of special dishes are often part of the feast, including date and nut bars and lentil crispies.
Date and nut bar (khajoor tukda)
These bars are made from dates, cashews, almonds and pistachios without added sugar. They make great power bars. This recipe is from “Beyond the Curry with Bharti,” by Bharti Sanghavi.
Makes: 15 pieces
- ¼ cup raw almonds, cut in half widthwise
- ¼ cup raw cashew pieces
- ¼ cup raw pistachios
- ½ pound Medjool dates, fresh, pitted (about 13 dates)
- ½ teaspoon ghee, plus more for brushing (see note)
- Mix all nuts, and dry roast in a medium pan over medium heat on the stovetop for four or five minutes, stirring occasionally so they toast evenly. Set aside.
- In a small pan, saute dates for 2 minutes over medium heat. They will melt into a thick pulp.
- Remove dates from heat, and add nuts. Mix well.
- Brush a cutting board and rolling pan with ½ teaspoon ghee. Make a smooth ball from date and nut mixture and roll into a ½ inch thick square sheet on the cutting board.
- Brush ghee on top of mixture. Let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Cut into 1½ by 1½ inch squares.
Store in refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.
Note: Ghee is clarified butter that is sold at Indian markets and at many other grocers. It can be made at home by melting butter until the milk solids separate and come to rest on the bottom of the pan; pour off the clarified liquid butter, leaving the solids behind. Allow to cool and solidify.
Lentil crispies (chorafali)
Chorafali is a traditional Diwali festival snack. Originating from the Indian state of Gujarat, chorafali is highly anticipated on the Diwali table, since it’s usually made once a year. Chorafali are light and fluffy snacks that melt in your mouth. This recipe is a personal recipe from Bharti Sanghavi.
Makes: 10 cups
- ½ cup water, plus 2 tablespoons
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda or papad khar (alkaline salt)
- 3 teaspoons of any neutral oil, plus more for deep frying and oiling surface
- 2 cups gram flour (besan or chickpea flour)
- 1 cup urad (lentil) flour (see note)
- 1 teaspoon red chile powder
- 1 teaspoon black salt
- In a small pot, bring ½ cup water, salt, baking soda and oil to a boil. Turn off heat.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine flours. Little by little, add hot water mixture, mixing with a spoon. Add another 2 tablespoons of room-temperature water to make a firm dough.
- Knead dough with a little oil on a flat surface. Let rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the chile powder and black salt to garnish the finished chips later.
- Halve the rested dough so kneading is easier. Knead one portion for a few minutes until the dough’s color lightens.
- Roll dough into a rope about 7 inches long and cut into even 7 equal pieces. Roll each piece with a rolling pin until it’s 5 inches wide. Cut into ½-inch-wide strips.
- Heat 1 to 2 inches of oil in a wok or heavy medium pot to 375 degrees. Place 2 or 3 strips into the oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. It will take a few seconds for them to puff up after adding them to the oil. Remove, using a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towel. Sprinkle a bit of red chile powder and black salt on top.
- Repeat with remaining dough.
- Serve at room temperature. Store in airtight jars for 3 to 4 weeks.
Note: The flours and other ingredients are available at south Asian markets, including Indian Groceries & Spices.