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Festival Food - East West North South

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A few days ago a fellow punj who is more atuned to seasons than I, started talking about craving forthe baisakhi mela festivities of back home. Yesterday I heard from an old pal who is going to Kerela for Onam.

So what are the special dishes and feasts for these occasions - I used to know this when I was young but now my hard-disk seems to be going going gone :sad:

Edited by anil (log)


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There were several festivals in the last couple of weeks. Last Wednesday was Vishu (Malayali new year) and also, I think, Baisakhi (Punjabi new year). The big part of Vishu at my Malayali grandmother's house was the special lunch she'd cook that would end with five types of payasams (custard or porridge like sweets): pal-payasam (sweet milk and rice), wheat payasam, pradamam, which is made with dhall, jackfruit payasam and one other which I'm forgetting.

This year my grandmother tells me she scaled back a bit, and only made the pal-payasam, but hers is so good that the lack of the others would hardly have been felt. Meanwhile, according to this story below, the desire for pal-payasam in Kerala is sto strong that people are now demanding it outside the usual festival times. This has lead to the setting up of a delightful sounding concept - payasam parlours, where you go and eat payasam like other would eat ice cream.

If for nothing else, check the link for the huge MAGNIFICENT urli or pan that the man is using to make the payasam. Purists like my grandmother insist that only the thick and heavy urli is the right dish for making most Malayali sweets.


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So what are the special dishes and feasts for these occasions - I used to know this when I was young   but now my hard-disk seems to be going going gone  :sad:


India's festival foods and feasts. What a good idea.

You mentioned Onam of Kerala- that falls on August 28th in 2004. As Vikram described Malayalis celebrated Vishu last wednesday.

I have a short piece on the myths and traditions and a few recipes of Vishu (as it is observed in my hometown) on my website.


Edited by Peppertrail (log)

Ammini Ramachandran


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I have a short piece on the myths and traditions and a few recipes of Vishu (as it is observed in my hometown) on my website.


Ammini, what a fascinating article - Actually your whole website is very interesting. I have barely managed to scratch the surface of it :smile:

I always loved Kerela. Sigh! I should have persued that fair neighbour of mine 25 odd years ago :sad: I'd now be lazing in the backwaters instead of suffering in Hell's Kitchen

Edited by anil (log)


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The three major festivals of Kerala Hindus are Vishu, Thiruvonam, and Tiruvathira. We celebrate Tiruvathira festival in the month Dhanu which falls between mid December and mid January. In Kerala Tiruvathira is essentially a women's festival - it is a celebration of devotion, beauty, divine love and dance.

On the day before Tiruvathira a special dish, Ettangadi, is prepared as an offering to goddess Parvathi. Eight different kinds of root vegetables and plantains are roasted over burning wooden logs and combined with ripe plantains, roasted and cooked red beans, sesame seeds, and fresh coconut and folded into a thick jaggery syrup. Certain special dishes—both sweet and sour Koova (arrowroot) Varattiyathu, Koova Paayasam and Tiruvathira Puzukku - are also prepared to celebrate Tiruvathira. Giving a gift of rice is a part of the Tiruvathira ceremonies in some parts of Kerala. Two days before Tiruvathira it is customary to send rice packets to relatives living in the same town or village. A rice packet consists of cooked long grain rice mixed with yogurt, milk, and butter and seasoned with fresh ginger and curry leaves. This rice is packed in fresh banana leaves, placed in stainless steel or brass containers with lids, and delivered along with deep fried, sun-dried vegetables.

In Tamilnadu this festival is called Ardra Darsanam, and they invoke the dancing aspect of Siva as Nataraja or the dancing Siva, a celebration that lasts for ten days. The special food offering at this festival is called kali, a sweet dish prepared with fried rice powder and jaggery.

More about the traditions and recipes of Tiruvathira on my web site.

Ammini Ramachandran


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  • 2 weeks later...
Hey you hit a nerve with me.. I have so much research and pieces on this.. so does Episure.. look for more on this thread... shortly ( meaning tomorrow night at the earliest!!)


I was hoping to read more about the festivals you had researched on. Hope someone will post about festival foods in Bengal, Maharastra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhara and so on.

Ammini Ramachandran


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I dont have to worry about copyright problems on this one, here you go Ammini:

Parsi Jashan

Parsis are a fun loving community and celebrate every possible festival with equal fervour. They eat sweets for Diwali, dance for New Year and dress up for Christmas. Their marriages, fashions and other celebrations are accompanied by legendary feasts of meat, sweets and fish specialities. Though cosmopolitan, Parsis believe strongly in their religion and children are trained to understand the scriptures. Every child is initiated into the Zoroastrian religion at a function called the Navjot. Parsi weddings too are occasions for fun, frolic, dancing and merrymaking. Bottles of colourful aerated drinks are served with fish cooked in banana leaves, mutton pulao, fried chicken and dal. The sweets too are rich and creamy. Parsi pickle, made with carrots, sugar and raisins and vinegar is finger licking and tasty.

Almost all Parsi families hold a Jashan or festive celebration on birthdays, anniversaries or to mark success in business or education. Recitations from scriptures, intoned musically by priests are a highlight. The holy fire is venerated and fruit, nuts, sweets are offered in thanksgiving . Naturally a feast of typically Parsi delicacies is also served on this occasion.




6 large legs of chicken

1 tbsp. chilli powder

1 tbsp. turmeric powder

1 tbsp. garam masala powder

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 tbsp. ginger-garlic paste

6 eggs beaten

Oil for frying

Salt to taste


Mix chicken with all ingredients except breadcrumbs, eggs and oil. Reserve for an hour. Steam cook till meat is just cooked but not soft. Roll each piece in breadcrumbs. Then dip in beaten eggs and deep fry in hot oil till crisp and done.



Serves 6


1 kg mutton, cubed

5 onions ground to a paste

1 tbsp. ginger-garlic paste

1 cup tomato puree

½ cup curd

1 ½ tsps. chilli powder

1 tsp. Turmeric powder

1 tsp. garam masala powder

2 tsps. Sugar

200 gms potato straws (sali)

Oil as needed

Salt to taste


Marinate meat in all ingredients except oil and sali. Leave for an hour. Heat one cup oil in a pressure cooker and add meat. Stir fry till brown. Add 2 cups water and pressure cook till done. Turn out and serve covered with potato straws.



Serves 6


4 cups milk

¾ cups sugar

1 ½ cups khoya (Milk Casein)

½ cup mixed sliced nuts,raisins

½ tsp. vanilla essence

3 eggs beaten


Boil milk and sugar till blended. Add broken khoya and stir till creamy. Add most of the nuts and raisins. Cool and add beaten eggs and essence. Stir well and bake in a medium oven till firm. Decorate with nuts and serve warm.You could also bake it in individual portions.



Serves 6


4 cups sweetened khoya

2 tbsps mixed pistachios and almonds

2 leaves of silver varkh (Silver leaf)

1 fish shaped mould


Fish is an auspicious motif for Parsis. This dish is a symbol of luck and good fortune. Knead khoya with half the nuts. Grease the mould lightly and line with the varkh. Press khoya tightly in the mould and turn over on a dish. Garnish with remaining nuts.



Makes 8 portions


8 large slices of pomfret, cleaned

1 tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. red chilli powder

Salt to taste

Banana leaves, lightly oiled on one side.

For the chutney:

1 tbsp. ginger - garlic paste

4 cups coriander leaves

2 green chillies, chopped

1 tbsp. amchoor or lemon juice or tamarind pulp

½ cup mint leaves

1 tsp. vinegar

Salt and sugar to taste


Marinate fish with turmeric, chilli powder and salt for an hour. Grind all chutney ingredients to a paste. Apply chutney generously to each slice of fish. Wrap in a small piece of banana leaf and secure with string. Steam these packets till fish is done.


I fry by the heat of my pans. ~ Suresh Hinduja


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  • 10 months later...

Tamil Nadu:

around Jan end: Pongal (harvest festival)

celebrate by making pongal (sweet and savory versions)

and other goodies.

Other festivals also have specific dishes associated with them:

e.g. sundal at Navaratri

Cheedai for Krishna Janmashtami etc.

Kalandha saadams for Tamil new year (next week) etc.

The list is very long, and varies by religion, region, and caste....

Recent issue of India Abroad had a great article with Easter

recipes from Kerala.

Ammini: any insights / articles on this?


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I remember this sweet yellow rice around basant ( springtime )

Wow, Those sweet yellow rice. Covered with almonds and kishmish (raisins)!!!! Yum!! Yum!!

Most of the menu will have a yellow hue on the Basant Panchami day. Kadhi Chawal for Lunch, Makki roti for dinner.

When we were kids, my Mom would actually make all of us wear something yellow on that day.


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Isn't it time for Vishu Kani again? I havent celebrated any festivals for a longish time. Vishu used to be one of my all time favourites. We are Tamil Iyers, but we celebrate Vishu. Go figure. Could be a border thing? I think I will make it home for Vishu this year. Any festival that involves good food and gift money cannot be bad. I cannot remember, but doesnt the Tamil New Year coincide with Vishu? I am told that Ugadi, the Kannada New Year is on April 09th this year. Are they all the same day? For some reason, I always think of Tamil New Year on the 14th April tho'. It has something to do with the regional/religious calenders?

I am especially fond of chaka pradhaman. Setting up the Kani is one of my favourite memories and shopping for the vegetables, fruits and flowers. I love..LOVE..the combined fragrance of all them together. The yearly ritual became painful after my grandmother passed away. As matriach of the family, she presided over all the festivals throughout the year and Vishu more than any other festival was particularly difficult without her.

edit: does Vishu have something to do with the Guruvayur temple or something about a boat race? I really wish I can make my memory cells work!

Edited by FaustianBargain (log)
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does Vishu have something to do with the Guruvayur temple or something about a  boat race? I really wish I can make my memory cells work!

Vishu represents the passing of the sun from Taurus into Aries, a solar event that marks the beginning of a new astrological year. Based on ancient astrological calendar it was considered New Year's Day in Kerala. However, our New Year's Day was changed to mid September in 825 A.D. Vishu is the celebration of hope and expectations of a new dawn. The traditional rituals followed in the festival are believed to usher in a year of prosperity. This year Vishu falls on April 14th. Many devotees worship at Guruvayoor temple on Vishu. I have a piece on this festival as a couple of recipes at this link.

Ammini Ramachandran


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Recent issue of India Abroad had a great article with Easter

recipes from Kerala.

Ammini:  any insights / articles on this?



Sorry didn't see your post till now. Before Easter many religious Christians in Kerala observe a strict vegetarian diet for several days. On Easter Sunday they celebrate with a variety of meat dishes. Being a vegetarian my understanding of these recipes is very limited.

Ammini Ramachandran


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