Rang, bhang, thumkas and pet-pooja, this sums up the entire urban Holi scenes. It’s that time of the year when the whole country turns vibrant and colorful. Nikita Chawla & Purva Bhatia connected with few of India’s most celebrated chefs asking them their fondest Holi memories and favorite recipes.
A beautiful way to mark the end of winter and beginning of spring, Holi is celebrated amongst enthusiasts with great zeal, zest and passion. The festival brings people across all ages and social groups together as a unified community celebrating the festival of goodness with great candor and love. The legend backs various mythological stories for the whys and wherefores to celebrate Holi. Signifying the victory of good over evil, Holi marks the destruction of demonic Holika. It is believed that Holi, the festival of love, also symbolizes the immortal love story of Lord Krishna and Radha.
Our festivals are known for grandeur, music and food! Tourists all over the world are drawn to India to catch a glimpse of the Holi festivities in India. Even Coldpay showed the world a glimpse of the Holi festivities in the vibrant lanes of India in the song ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ featuring Beyonce.
While we run through the rainbow clouds of coloured powder and drench ourselves in pichkari or balloon fights, dancing on lively Bollywood numbers including iconic Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘Rang Barse’ or even Ranbir Kapoor’s ‘Balam Pichkari’, thandai and gujiyas are the definitely highlight of the festival. An aromatic glass made up of milk, rich dry fruits and select spices, thandai is an absolute delight and cooling to the body. A drink specially made during Shivratri and Holi. People mix bhang for the drink to taste heavenly. *happy dance*
Chef Saransh Goila recalls, “I usually celebrate Holi with my family. We make sure we don’t waste water and play only with organic colours. Being a chef, I am expected to make Thandai which is indeed a popular serving during this festival. I learnt it from Pandit ji Thandai wale who is very famous for his Thandai in Lucknow. This Thandai is a beautiful amalgamation of two ingredients almond and water which is quite unique. Especially for Holi, my mom prepares Gujiya which is a traditional dish and apart from this we also prepare Kaddu ki Sabzi and Dahi Bhalla which is mostly cooked for lunch. Being a holiday, we make sure that we spend as much time together by playing games.”
Moving away from the traditional, Chef Saransh adds a twist in the tale for us with golgappas: Golgappas that are covered with chocolate & coconut, stuffed with candied peanuts and strawberries and “paani” that is pure vanilla shake!
We took Chef Sabyasachi Gorai down the memory lane too. “My father used to make this dish, Lavang Latika and I would assist him. I would watch him prepare the dish and my job would be to seal the filling with the cloves. I would patiently wait until the dish is ready. Once it is dunked into the sugar syrup and served, it’s irresistible to wait and I would pounce into it until I finish it,” he recalls and gives us this wonderful recipe…
Holi celebrations have always been synonymous to Thandai and Gujiyas and most of us weave fondest memories associated with this heavenly combination. Chef Rakhee Vaswani gives us an innovative version of the mandatory thandai. “I love working around with what is at home and curating new recipes. I literally yearn for a situation like that and as fate would have it, I got the chance to do exactly that. I would see my son excessively stressing over his IB exams so I wanted to cheer him up with something sweet. I went around scouting for ingredients in the kitchen only to find some thandai and gheer, a typical Holi sweet and that’s when an idea struck me, why not use these two ingredients to make something new. I decided to add some chocolate to it since my son is a complete chocoholic. My son is particular about what he eats and loves fancy food and since I was making it for him I whipped up something fancy, a complete east meets west situation, plated it beautifully and voila, the Thandai Soil White Chocolate Panna Cotta was ready. He was ecstatic that I came up with a recipe for him but after all, he has the perks of having a professional chef as a mother.” (smiles)
Chef Ashish Massey recollects, “During our childhood days, we used to wait for this festival as all our family members used to make Gujiya’s, kanji, mithai’s and many more dishes together. All my cousins would come to our place one day before Holi and we used to soak Genda phool (Marigold flower) in water over night so get that natural Holi colour. As I had a keen interest in cooking since my childhood, I used to help my mother and aunt in kitchen to make the fillings of Gujiya and then to make them.” Holi not only brings families together but it also strengthens family bonds.
Amidst the maddening crowd chanting ‘bura na maano Holi hai!’, it is serene watching people as ‘one’ community. Dramatic colours, intoxicating bhang, crazy music, lip smacking street food and traditional merriments stages the festival magical!
How are you celebrating Holi this year and what is your favorite recipe? Let us know in the comments below.
In the meantime, Happy Holi folks!