India is a land where celebration is a way of life. The innumerable festivals that crowd the Indian calendar are joyous occasions that overflow with fun, devotion, celebration, camaraderie and much more. The festivals are varied across the different states of the country and yet there is also a common thread that links them together. One exciting aspect of Indian festivals is the cuisine associated with them. No festival is complete without the enjoyment of special dishes that are specific to the festivals and also the region where they are being celebrated.
The harvest festival or the onset of the New Year as per the regional calendars are occasions for celebration of the past and prayers for the future. These festivals are also an opportunity to enjoy the bounty of nature in the form of special dishes that are cooked as part of these festivals and enjoyed by all and sundry. Whether it be the celebration of Poila Boisakh in Bengal, or Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, or Vishu in Kerala, food forms an integral part of the festivities.
Amazing Bengali Fare on Poila Boisakh
Poila Boisakh is the traditional Bengali New Year and celebrated on the 14th or 15th of April every year based on the Lunisolar Bengali calendar. The festival is celebrated in the states of Bengal and Tripura and other states with Bengali populace in India. The festival is also celebrated in Bangladesh. Colourful processions, pujas, social get together mark the celebrations of Poila Boisakh. Needless to say as in any other Indian festival food occupies a primal position in the scheme of things.
If you think Bengal, sweets like Rosogolla and Sandesh are sure to figure enticingly in your thoughts. But what are the dishes that are synonymous with Poila Boisakh?
The dish that garners most attention during Poila Boisakh is Kosha Mangsho also known as Mutton Kosha. This as its name suggests is a non-vegetarian dish which consists of mutton that has been slow-cooked and seasoned with a variety of spices that include red chilly powder, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, etc. The dish is eaten with plain rice, pulao, or with Parathas. The delectable characteristic of this dish is the tenderness of the meat that has been slow cooked over fire.
Vegetarians need not be disappointed, the Aloor Dum is a vegetarian dish which is very popular, especially during Poila Boisakh. It is a curry made of baby potatoes seasoned with spices. The Aloor Dum is eaten with Luchis. Luchis are pooris made of refined wheat flour.
No festival is complete without its share of sweet dishes. Poila Boisakh too is no exception and it would be unthinkable to even imagine a Bengali festival without sweets. One enticing sweet is the Rosogollar Payesh which one must taste during the Poila Boisakh. The Rosogollar Payesh consists of small balls of Rosogolla that are dunked in a rich and creamy milk liquid called Payesh or Kheer.
Puthandu-A feast for the Tastebuds
Puthandu is the Tamil New Year and celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month known as Chithirai. It usually falls on the 14th of April and is celebrated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The festival is marked by worship, social and family events and of course a family festival lunch consisting of various special dishes cooked specially for the occasion.
Puthandu is a festival that falls during the season when trees are laden with raw green mangoes. So mangoes play a very important role in the menu of the day. One of the traditional and important dishes of Puthandu is Mangai Pachadi, which is a concoction that has the sweetness of jaggery combining tantalizingly with the sourness of raw mangoes. Bitter neem leaves and red chillies add to the exotic nature of the concoction which is a traditional must have dish during Puthandu. The Mangai Pachadi is more than a food dish it actually echoes a philosophy of life which that states that life is a mixture of different flavours and needs to be savoured as such. Various sweets and savouries also make up the festival meal and one unique dish that is usually cooked in most homes is the Jackfruit Payasam, which is made from Jackfruit, Jaggery, and coconut milk.
Vishu- A Bonanza for Foodies
Vishu is the traditional New Year celebrated in Kerala and also in parts of Karnataka. One of the most important aspect of Vishu is Vishu Kani where a tray filled with auspicious items like rice, bananas, coconut, flowers etc., is viewed, first thing on the morning of Vishu. Vishu is relatively devoid of pomp and celebrated as a family festival but of course food is an important aspect of the festival. Vishu is the occasion to revel in the pleasures of Sadya, a meal on a plantain leaf. It consists of a multitude of dishes with rice accompanied by Sambar or Dal as the staple. The various dishes encompasse the entire spectrum of taste from salt to sweet and bitter to sour. Some of the dishes of the Sadya include the Kaalan which is a single vegetable like Yam slow cooked and marinated with curds, Kootu Curry which is a curry of mixed vegetables and Bengal Gram. The sweetness to the proceedings is added by a payasam, one of the popular ones is Paal Ada Pradhaman which is prepared with rice, milk, sugar, cashew nuts and cardamom.
April is the month of celebrations that sweep across the diverse states of Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala as the people ring in the New Year with hope and of course with lip smacking traditional delicacies that guaranteed gastronomic nirvana. If you are travelling to one of these destinations, just for the amazing food, make sure you stay at Sterling for a memorable time!