10 Festive Foods to Sample Across India, This Holi | Nat Geo Traveller India

10 Festive Foods to Sample Across India, This Holi

Sweet obbattu in Karnataka, crunchy dhuska in Jharkhand, and chaat papri in Delhi—we round up celebratory grubs from every corner of the country.  
10 Festive Foods to Sample Across India This Holi 1
Sweet and savoury chaats are a classic way to curb your festive hunger. Photo by: Indian Food Images/ Shutterstock

Celebratory indulgences, just like Holi’s grandiosity, are colourfully delicious. Homes and streets are lined with food spreads that come in all shapes and flavours: bite-sized mithais are on full display at sweet shops; large thalis and tall glasses of thandais are culinary invitations to communal feasts; and crimped ghujias are devoured by hungry onlookers no sooner than they’re served. The scene was almost ritualistic of a pre-pandemic world. But with the virus still looming, most parts of the country have curbed jamborees. Colour splashing and water balloon fights may not be on the cards this year, but that is no reason cancel the festivities. It’s time to turn to food—oftentimes a trusted mood elevator.

We’ve put together a fantastic menu of breakfast picks and elaborate dessert selections from different corners of the country to amp up your spirits this socially-distanced Holi.

 

East India

Dhuska

This staple breakfast food and evening snack is loved in Jharkhand and Bihar all year round. But its versatility for passing off as an entrée or the main course makes it a popular festive choice. The deep-fried dish is made from powdered rice, channa dal and potatoes, spiced with chilli and garnished with garlic. It is often served with piping hot Bihari mutton curry or a humble potato curry.

 

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Syrup-glazed malpua served with rose petals and dry fruits along with kesar milk lends a royal touch to the traditional sweet. Photo by: vm2002/ Shutterstock

 

Malpua

This absolute stunner of a dessert believed to have originated in Odisha soon won over the East and the North Indian palates. These pancake-like, shallow fried fritters are drenched in sugar syrup and flavoured by cardamom, khoya or rabdi, dry fruits, saffron and rose petals. With a dish that looks as decadent as it tastes, there is no reason for it to not feature on this festive menu.

 

 

West India

Kanji Vada

There is no better way to beat the heat than to indulge in an invigorating cold drink. Kanji—a fermented beverage made of carrots, mustard and occasionally beetroot—is an icy refreshment served with light urad dal fritters—or vadas. This Holi special, popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat, does not feel heavy on the stomach and aids digestion.

 

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Garhwali kanji vada is the quickest way to cool down and fill your stomach after a hot day. Photo by: Indian Food Images/ Shutterstock

Holi Jo Roat

The Sindhi roat is mythology served on a plate. The popular Rajasthani sweet flat bread is an ode to the story of Holika dahan that celebrates victory of good over evil. In an attempt to kill her nephew Prahlad, she sat in blazing fire with him and perished despite her boon to escape inferno unscathed, while the boy was saved by Lord Vishnu. The roat—a thick roti—is cooked on an open flame or on a dung cake, and is held together by raw cotton strings that remain untouched by the fire. They do not burn or come undone, symbolising the spirit of Prahlad. While the idea of it to ensure children’s immunity is untested, it is definitely worth an experimental meal to sample a taste of Sindh-Marwari cuisine.

 

North India

Pallar

Pallar—a not-so-distant cousin of the kanji—is a fermented Gharhwali beverage guzzled by the glasses in Uttrakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The concoction is a healthy blend of buttermilk, ground spices, chillies, mustard and fenugreek seeds. The acidity of the buttermilk and the punch from the tempered spices is a great alternative to thandai and salted lassi.

 

Barfi

It may be difficult to point out the origin of the fudge-like mithai given their long-standing history, but there is no doubt that the plethora of varieties under this category are overwhelming. Whenever there is a festival in the northern states, there is a barfi ready for doorstep greetings. From Uttrakhand’s Bal mithai to Punjab’s Doda barfi—halwais offer a variant of flavours to pick from. No matter the occasion, one can never go wrong with these classic Indian confectioneries—made using condensed milk, khoya, and ghee.

 

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Jharkhand’s street snack dhuska, served as a quick chaat or as an elaborate meal with mutton curry, rounds up Holi’s festivities in a bite. Photo by: GR8DESIGNS/ Shutterstock

Chaats and Savoury Bites

Street food markets are widely popular all the way from Uttar Pradesh to Punjab. With ready to eat lip-smacking chaats at every turn, it comes as no surprise that scrumptious street food like channa masala, pani puri, papri chaat, kachoris and tea snacks such as namak pare found all over North India become customary Holi snacks. Tangy and spicy masalas, refreshing curd and crunchy goodness that make up dissolute bites of raj kachori are simple yet irresistible indulgences.

 

Bhang Pakoras and Ghujias

Bhang’s association with Holi goes back to the story of Parvati seeking Kamadeva’s assistance to bring Shiva back to the world from a meditative state. His return was celebrated by consuming bhang on Holi. Pakoras and ghujias—two traditional festive accompaniments, with the best in Varanasi—are a combination of sweet and savoury nibbles that get a sacred twist with 10 grams of bhang seed powder. Traditionally, these snacks are great accompaniments to kanji or jaljeera.

 

South India

Poornam Boorelu

Another hidden star of the celebratory treats—poornam boorelu, also known as poornalu—is a traditional dessert of Andhra Pradesh. These fried rice and lentil dumplings stuffed with a coconut, jaggery, dry fruit and cardamom mixture are melt-in-the-mouth decadent. A bite of this sweet is evident of the knockout punch that this recipe packs, and its accompaniment to all meals furthers its versatility.

 

10 Festive Foods to Sample Across India This Holi

Karnataka’s ghee-brushed obattu, a popular variant of the Maharastrian puran poli, is perfect when served hot. Photo by: StockImageFactory.com/ Shutterstock

 

Obbattu

This traditional Carnatic dish, often consumed as an extravagant Sunday meal, is a sweet paratha stuffed with an aromatic concoction of jaggery, dry fruits, lentils, nutmeg and cardamom. Obbattu uses all-purpose flour and oil for the dough as opposed to the Maharashtrian puran poli that is made with whole wheat flour. Perfect for any meal from breakfast to dinner, this flatbread laden with ghee, is good enough to be devoured on its own, but it also tastes well with mango pachadi, katachi amti. Its flavours are the easiest way to feel the festive frenzy, or just the warm comfort of your home.

 

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  • Sanjana Ray is a writer, and also an unwarranted tour guide that people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food.

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