Holi, as I remember, was always a big thing in our family. It was a festival that we all celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. And the person who was the most enthusiastic was my dad. He would be the first one to pull everyone out into the lawn of our house and smear everyone with colour. My sister and I could keep protesting, trying to hide, but he wouldn’t listen. Our equally enthusiastic neighbours would join him, and before long, all of us would be drenched and splashed with Holi colours.
While we all were about the fun and frolic, my mom was about the tradition, and by that, she meant the foods specific to the festival.
I remember that she always ensured that we ate what was considered typical for that festival, whichever festival it may have been.
So here is a list of food items that we always ate on Holi.
Gujiya is a sweet dumpling made with maida or flour filled with khoya and a mix of dry fruits, dipped in sugar syrup and then deep-fried.
A box full of gujiyas was the first sign that Holi was just around the corner when I was growing up. As a child, I was a fussy eater, so it was a while before I took to them, much to my mom’s dismay. But once I did, I got hooked to them and remain that way to this day. Since she didn’t know how to make them, she either took her friend’s help to make them and if she couldn’t, she would buy them from the Evergreen Sweet House in Green Park/ the Bengal Sweet House in Vasant Vihar.
Sticking to the tradition, I get mine from the Vasant Vihar shop each year.
2. Besan ladoo
This was another Holi special made by my mother. I remember taking in the aroma of the besan, which was being bhunoed on slow fire as I walked in from school. After the besan was cooked, she would add chopped nuts into the mixture and then make small balls out of the mix.
3. Dahi Bhalla
Soft dal balls dipped in chilled curd and garnished with green chutney, saunth, and spices….
The joy of eating when you are covered with colour while trying to ensure that the colour does not get into the curd. The bhallas would be fried early in the morning, and then as soon as we finished playing, it was all put together for everyone to enjoy.
Hollow, crispy-fried puffed balls filled with potato, chickpeas, spices, and flavoured water.
This is an all-time favourite with most people, and one doesn’t need an excuse to pop these. But during Holi, the spirit is totally different. I remember stuffing myself with these delectable balls of pure delight one after the other and then gulping down the spicy water.
Spicy and deep-fried may be avoided otherwise, but not during Holi. Kachori is a crunchy ball of maida stuffed with a spicy mix of gram flour and other spices.
This used to be my mom’s friend’s contribution. Hot or cold, it tasted divine.
6. Malpua with kheer
Malpua is a fried Indian pancake. It is decadence made with rice flour, oodles of ghee, dipped in sugar syrup and fried.
Piping hot malpuas dipped in cold kheer is from my childhood.
Kheer –Delectable and fragrant rice and milk pudding made one day before Holi. It was my brother’s all-time favourite dessert.
Though many people eat malpua with rabri in our house, we ate it with kheer and still do. This was the final Holi indulgence when our already filled stomachs would be groaning and moaning from the food overkill, but we would still keep stuffing.
7. Namak Pare
Made with flour seasoned with salt and ghee and then deep-fried.
This used to be prepared in bulk several days in advance and then stored in an airtight container to be savoured all year round.
These are traditional Holi delicacies that have stood the test of time. Make them or outsource them and enjoy the festival of colours.