Decoding the delicacies of Dussehra
Sugar-dipped rasgulla, khoya-based sandesh (Bengal), moong usal (Maharashtra), jalebi, kheer and besan laddoo in North India and yereyappa and payasam in southern parts makes Dussehra special.
Dussehra is among the most celebrated festivals in India. Also called Vijayadashami, it falls on the tenth day of the festive season of Navratri, and is celebrated in different styles across the country, with one message at the core of it all — the victory of good over evil. And like most other festivals, festive delicacies play a major role in celebrations. These include crunchy fafda (Gujarat), sugar-dipped rasgulla and khoya-based sandesh (Bengal), moong usal (Maharashtra). In North India, jalebi, kheer and besan laddoo are part of festivities, while yereyappa and payasam are prepared in southern parts of India.
Celebrations in southern states also include temple visits, decking up of homes and purchase of new vehicles or electronics. “Popular dishes prepared during this festival include alugadde palya (mashed potato sabji served with dosa or poori), baaledindina palya (banana stem sabji made with Bengal gram and spices) and the popular puliyogare (tamarind rice). Also, payasam is prepared in every household, each in its own style,” shares Ashok Bandaru, executive chef, Shangri-La Bengaluru.
Huli Thovve, gravy-based dish is popular across the Karnataka. “This dish is prepared with sweet pumpkin or ridge gourd, jaggery, tur daal and tamarind. It is sweet and sour and served with rice. Some people also add pumpkin pieces to it to enhance its taste,” says Sukesh Kanchan, head chef, Sanadige Delhi.
On Vijayadashami, books and other items symbolic of knowledge and prosperity are placed in front of Goddess Saraswathi and taken back in a ceremony known as poojayeduppu in Tamil. “We make kids read at least one paragraph in each of their subjects. We make them practice singing or play an instrument, hoping that particular art will grow further. Among delicacies, sweet variations are far more. We prepare sakkare pongal, kesari bhath, puran poli/obattu and rice/semiya/moong dal payasam at home,” says Arun Sundararaj, executive chef at Taj Mahal, New Delhi.
For Bengalis, Dussehra coincides with the last day of Durga Puja. “Shoshti, Shoptomi, Oshtomi, Nobomi and Dashami are the important days. Luchi, ghughni, aloor dom, mutton chop, kobiraji and macher chop are the ideal selections. Rasgulla and channa jalebi are the quintessential desserts. Bhoger khichuri, beguni/bhaja, cholar dal narkel diye is a meal that has nostalgia attached to it. There is an array of vegetarian food, too, such as potol er dolma, doi potol and mochar chop. During this festival, only yellow dal is used,” says Aditi Chatterjee, sous chef, WelcomHotel Sheraton, Delhi.
In Maharashtra, celebrations entail a selection of vegetarian delicacies offered to the Goddess. “The most popular traditional dishes are sabudana khichdi, moong usal, batata bhaji, kothimbir vadi, pohe, upma, sheera and pani puri. Also, Maharashtrian desserts such as puran poli, shrikhand, modak, shakkarpara and mango mastani are must haves. This dish, mango mastani, is named after the beautiful Mastani, the courtesan who stole Bajirao’s heart,” informs Probir, the sous chef at WelcomHeritage Tadoba Vanya Villas Resort and Spa, Chandrapur.
Furthermore, there is a custom in Maharashtra where small animals are made out of dough. “We make small animal-like figures from wheat flour and burn them in the havankund. There is also dasmi, another dish prepared on the day. It is made of rice flour, peanut powder and other ingredients. They are basically rice pancakes that kick in nostalgia,” says M Kasture, executive chef, The Ashok Hotel, ITDC.
And in most parts of North India, the tenth day celebrations mark the end of the nine-day fasting period. “After fasting for nine days, a feast is in order! One of the desserts associated with this feast in the Capital is jalebi. For some reason, our elders used to get loads of sugarcane as well, which we used to chomp on for hours,” recalls chef Tarun Sibal. During Dusshera in North India, fantastic array of vegetarian foods is enjoyed. “Since it is an auspicious day, lavish vegetarian meal or a thalli is relished which includes sweets like motichoor ka ladoo or makhana ki kheer. While for non-vegetarians this day is special to feast post a period of fasting,” says Gaurav Lavania, executive chef, Welcomhotel Sheraton, New Delhi.
1 cup rice newly harvested1/2 cup moong dal split green lentil2 cups water3/4 cup jaggery grated and tightly packet1 tsp Cardamom Powder4 tbsp ghee clarified butter1 pinch salt1/2 cup milkhandful fried cashews
Soak grated jaggery in 1 cup of water and keep aside.Dry roast moong dal in a wok till aromatic and light brown in color.Collect the roasted moong dal with rice and wash through clean running water. Collect the washed dal rice mix in a pressure cooker.Add around 1 cup of water or adequate amount of water as needed in the cooker with a pinch of salt and pressure cook till 3-4 whistles.Turn off the gas and wait till the pressure from the cooker releases completely.Meanwhile heat 2 tbsp ghee in a wok and fry cashews and raisins and collect aside.In the same wok, heat jaggery water till it comes to a boil.Strain the jaggery water through a sieve to remove impurities.Transfer the strained Jaggery water back to the wok.Meanwhile open the lid of the pressure cooker and collect the coked dal rice mix in a bowl.Mash them well with the help of a potato masher.Add the mashed dal rice mix to the jaggery water and cook in low flame.Add milk, cardamom powder and fried cashews and cover lid to cook for another 10-12 mins. in low flame.The mix will turn mushy and thick, stir well and turn off the gas and add 2 tbsp ghee and mix well.Garnish with some more fried cashews and serve hot
Recipe by chef Arun Sundararaj
Author tweets @ruchikagarg271