Saturday, October 20, 2007

Food, festivals and memories :)

For people like me, festivals, food and memories form a heady combo :). Food and festivals go hand in hand and create everlasting memories. The celebrations one enjoys together with the family, the meals on cherishes with the loved ones, they all hold a special place in our book of memories :). Navaratri time is one such festival in India, when people celebrate togetherness, weave memories and have lots of fun. Food ofcourse plays a central part here too, like any other Indian festival. The word Navaratri blends the word Nava, meaning nine and new (the two meanings of the word "nava" blend well together here) and, ratri meaning night. The nine new nights, the beginning of a new season.....There are two navaratris, one celebrated during the month of Ashvin (Assu in Punjabi), leading to Mahanavami and Vijayadashmi and another one during the month of Chaitra (Chetar in Punjabi), leading to Ram Navami. The Ashvin Navaratri is one of the most popular Indian festival, celebrated across different Indian subcultures.

In Punjabi, Navaratri time is referred to as Narate/Navratre. Both Assu and Chetar Narate are celebrated with equal fervour. People f(e)ast through the Narate and celebrate Sri Durga Ashtami and Maha Navami with lots of festive foods. Throughout the Narate, people worship the various forms of Mother Goddess. To me, this festival reflects the celebration of womanhood.

During fasting, ideally one is supposed to eat light, stick to mostly fruit diet or "phalahaar", no whole grains, no salt etc. However, that usually makes way for the alternative sources of yumminess :-D. People enjoy goodies made out of swaang (literal meaning, pretend) da chawal (samo), singhare da atta (water chestnut flour)-relished as rotis, choora and halva, kuttu de atte di roti (rotis made out of kuttu flour) etc. Salt is replaced by kala loon/kala namak/sendha namak (black salt). The sabzis, daals and kadhis are made sans and onion, garlic and even tomatoes! People enjoy the laddoos/pinnis made out of jaggery and red amaranth seeds (boor, seel, rajgira). Read some notes about samo and rajgira here.

I'll confess, i used to fast when i was a lil' kid :). The fun of doing things together with my friends was what drove me to sustain on bananas and other fruit for the whole day, with an occassional treat in the form of khatte wale aloo :).

Its a simple dish, made out of potatoes, dry spices and tamarind. Really yummy and tangy, and has a lovely deep brown color! I recently made it as an ode to good old times :). Here's how we make it:

Khatte wale aloo:

We need:

  • 3 potatoes (peeled and cut into big cubes. I use Russet/Idaho varities)
  • A pinch of hing/asfoetida
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin (jeera)
  • 1/4 tsp. kalonji (nigella seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander powders (dhania powders)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. thick tamarind pulp
  • Salt to taste (people who fast traditionally use black salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. oil (preferably mustard) or ghee

In a deep vessel, heat the oil/ghee and temper the hing, followed by cumin and nigella seeds Now add the coriander powder and turmeric and mix. Add one and half cup water to this and bring to boil. Now add cubed potatoes, salt and chilli powder, cover and cook the potatoes on low heat till done. Stir in the tamarind pulp and cook for another 4- 5 minutes. Serve hot with thin phulkas. Enjoy :).

On the Durga Ashtami day, or Jyot, as it is known in Punjabi, people invite lil' girls home for a feast. This is called Kanjak Pooja. Kanjak literally means lil' girl. The lil' girls are literally worshipped and enjoy a great feast and are given really pretty presents including beautiful bangles, red chunnis/duppattas/scarves with golden/tilla boder, toys and some pocket money. As lil' girls, my friends and i used to get together and the night before Durga Ashtami, we would apply mehndi and have lots of fun together. The traditional Jyot fiesta includes sooji halwa or kadah (made with either jaggery or sugar, along with cardamom, sometimes saffron and garnished with roasted almonds, raisins or thinly sliced dried coconut ), bhangoor (pronounced like angoor, with the Punjabi BH sound, which is actually a combination of P, B and H sounds rolled into one), which is dry savory dish made from black gram or kale chane, which are soaked, boiled and then cooked in oil and dry spice powders like a lil' hing, dhania and jeera powders, amchoor and chilli powder etc, pooris or phulkas , and dahi-bhalle (vadas in yogurt). The dahi bhalle are kept simple for the festival. No sweet and green chutneys here. Just simply flavored with salt, ground black pepper, roasted jeera and red chilli powder. The bhalle usually are fried in mustard oil and are usually spiced with whole or ground black peppers, very lil' hing, salt and red chilli powder. And yet the taste eclectic! There is certain way of enjoying the kadah, bhagoor and poori, and it is the best way to enjoy it!! You keep a poori in a plate, flatten the poori, top it with kadah/halwa and top it all with some bhangoor, roll it and enjoy!

The Narate culminate in the Dussehra, which is the day to enjoy Ram Leelas and in Punjab, it also marks the first day of welcoming and enjoying the new sugar-cane crops :).

Here's to the cultural pot-pourri that India is, a beautiful land with so many diverse festivals and customs. Lets enjoy each festival by sharing smiles and celebrating our diversity, which also marks our unity.


This is my contribution for the JFI-Dussehra, being hosted by dear Vee of Past, Present and Me. JFI celebrates the different ingredients of our food and culture, and is a get together envisaged by dear Indira.


Roopa said...

nice knowing about the navtari in Punjab Musy :)
the tangy allo looks yum and quite unique so many ways to cook aloo!

sra said...

Nice piece, Musical! I thought sour things such as tamarind were also forbidden on fast days! I knew about tomatoes, tho'. I knew someone who, when fasting, refused to let the cook touch tomatoes on those days!

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). Its always fun to find new ways cooking potatoes-one thing that i never tire of ;).


I guess it depends on what kind of fast. Ideally it is supposed to be phalahaar on Navaratri, but people around used to make the khatte aloo and vrat di kadhi regularly, which use tamarind and curds. I guess its one of those cases where fasting and feasting come together!! Oh tomatoes, and eggplants too!!

Nupur said...

What a delightful post, Musical: thoughtful and delicious all at the same time! And that potato recipe is making my mouth water at 5.45am :D


Looks to me..thanx for sharing the recipe!!

Asha said...

Great post Musie! Happy Navratri!:))

Vcuisine said...

A nice entry Musical. Viji

TBC said...

Very informative post, Musical.
I have never fasted, not a single day in my life:-(
That khatte aloo is actually making me want some...sigh!

Best wishes for the festival season:-)

Anita said...

I will never forget the taste of poori halwa and the chane that get all mixed together as kanjak prashad - the taste of childhood Navratra.

Happy Dussehra, Musical.

musical said...


Thanks, ji :). At 5:45 AM, any food looks mouthwatering to me :-D. But i agree, aloos take the cake in that department :).

Raks Kitchen:

Thanks, dear :). Glad you liked the aloo recipe :).


Thanks, dear :). happy Dussehra to you too :). Looking forward to your Wednesday special :).

musical said...


Thanks a lot, dear :).


Fasting to me was entirely for fun, plus when i was lil' i just needed an excuse to eat more and more bananas :). Drop by for some khatte aloo anytime :).

Warm festival wishes to you and the family too, dear :).


You are so right, the mix of all the three parasad items is an eclectic blend! And the way it tastes on the festival day can not be duplicated any other time!

Happy Dussehra to you and your family too, dear!

Nabeela said...

I used to fast as a child too, when I was in grade 2! :) Except that in our fasts, we don't eat anything...or drink water!

musical said...


Hi! Good to see you here, buddy :). Doing rozas as a second grade student! wow! you have will power, dear :).

Richa said...

happy dassera sweetie!
kanchka da parshad vekhke maja agaya :) for some reason, the combo always tastes the best on this day :) tussi te poori tayari kitti e'! khatte aloo, yummmmm :)

Shweta said...

Happy dussehra sweet Musical :) A very beautiful post, I remember how many houses we'd go to for kanjke as kids :) You start by relishing all the goodies and after 3-4 homes it comes down to - please!!! can we do this some other day... ha ha ha! so you made all the prashad, good girl, mommy must be proud of you :D
Sandiego is immersed in smoke from the wildfires, hope all's well where you are!

musical said...


I agree, that combo tastes best on the Jyot day :). Haanji poori banayi e, tussin vi aa jao, chai naal khavange, poori te aloo-gobhi (made it again, this week, with tandoori masala) :-D.

Happy Dussehra to you too, dear :).


How true! I remember how stuffed we used to get ;). He he, this time i made extra effort :). Usually i just make kadah :). Oh, its reached San Diego too!! You know, the smoke is there even in Santa Monica. Whole morning they were reporting on the TV from Malibu! Y'day was so windy! West LA is OK so far.

Happy Dussehra to you too, dear!

Rachna said...

i loooooooooove poori halwa chole...yummy... and kanjak time on ashtami....

i see why some people say dont put normal salt, only rock salt...and i love the taste of rock salt... on fruit, in lassis and on dahi bhalles.... musy how do you make the kada (halwa) parshaad (gurdware waleyan da)? i wud love to see yur version....

Vee said...

Ooohh... Love the khatte wale aloo. Will try it tonite. Feasting during fasting is right! I love all the foods that are made especially for the upvass, but somehow they are not as much fun when made on non-fasting days.

Thanks for participating! Warm Narate/Dasara greetings to you and yours!

Sharmi said...

very delightful post dear! I loved the second plate with chana and poori! can settle down with that! hope you had a great Navratri!

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). Kala namak definitely adds a great taste to everything! Try it in skanjvi/nimboo-pani, it really is great! The Gurdawara kadah is usually amde from jaggery chashni, instead of sugar, and no too many condiments-it draws its flavor from simplicty-sooji and jaggery plus lots of seva while preparing it-that gives it the unqiue flavor.


I completely agree, these foods taste the best during the fesival days! Thanks for the wonderful greetings, dear :). Happy Dassera to you and your family too :).


Thanks, ji :). That combo of halwa, chana and poori is always the best! i enjoyed navratri with these simple treats. Hope you had a great time too :).

Mishmash ! said...

Greetings of the season!
You should send the last one to me,.,you have done enough damage already describing it :D


DEEPA said...

ohh i love this one ....i wish i could have the bowl ...thks a lot for sharing

musical said...


Thanks, buddy :). Sure, lemme know where to send halwa-chana-poori for you :).


Thanks, dear :). Enjoy the aloo and the halwa :).

Sandeepa said...

Got to know so much about you celebrating Dussera from your sweet post.
Happy Dussera Musical, did you catch a Ram Leela by any chance :)

musical said...


Dussehra wishes to you too, dear :). No Ram Leela here, what about you? Did you get to visit any Pooja pandals?

Pelicano said...

I absolutely loved reading this, Musical Focaccia. And I'll be trying khatte wale alu today- curiosity is getting the best of me. Does "khatte" mean "sour/sourness"?

Do you still have some of these gifts from Durga Ashtami/ Jyot?

musical said...


Thank you :). Yup, khatta means sour :). Do try it, it tastes really good :-D.

By Pooja gifts you mean, the chane-halwa: those i still have a real tiny bit in my fridge. The other gifts i received as kid.....ah! they must be somewhere at home!

Kajal said...

WOW…great to know this different recipe for Durga Ashtami. We made Sooji Halwa with sugar and add lots of fruit and peanuts powder in it for Prsaad. Nice entry my dear.:)

Mandira said...

Musical, happy navratri. Your poori, halwa and kale chane did bring back many happy memories :)

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). Sooji halwa with ground peanuts must have tasted really good!


Thank you, ji :). I am glad that this post brought back lovely memories to you :).

Shweta said...

Hi dear, Things are ok with us, thanks so much for checking on me :) We got a pretty bad scare on Monday but things are better now (at least in this part). San Diego sure could use some prayers! Hope all's well with you!

musical said...


Thanks for getting back, dear! stay safe!

Jeena said...

Hi Musical everytime I see potato used with spices in a dish my mouth waters, I love your recipe lovely picturestoo. :)

Linda said...

Sharmi, this is a beautiful write-up and I am reminded that however much I learn about Indian culture and cuisine, I have a LONG way to go (and lots more yummy dishes to make!) :)

musical said...


Potatoes are always yummy, isn't it :). Thanks :).


Sharmi blogs at Neivedyam :).

Sivani said...

Thanks for sharing that reminiscence straight from the heart. That's what makes the blogging world so special!

musical said...


Thanks a lot, dear :). Can't agree more with you about the benefits of blogging :).

Sig said...

Great post musie... Loved learning about the Punju way of celebrating the festivities... the poori and bhangoor pic and the way you described how to eat it is making me really hungry now :)

musical said...


Thanks you, sweetie :). Drop by anytime for some halwa-bhangoor and poori combo :).

sagari said...

i like all your curry recipes nice blog

evolvingtastes said...

After eyeing your 'Khatte wale aloo' for a long time, I finally made these today. What a delightfully delicious dish it is. Very simple and easy too, making it rather high on the benefit to effort ratio. Thanks, Musical, and hope you are doing well.

Manifestation said...

Pretty delicious dishes indeed.Thanks for sharing.Wish you all in advance a Happy Sri Rama Navami.

Best Regards
Send gifts to chennai|Send gifts to Bangalore|Send gifts to India

Anonymous said...

Yes cannot be!