Falling on Saturday the 14th of November, Diwali is a celebration of good over evil and light over darkness.
After the collective year we have all experienced in the region from the doomscrolling that started during the summer bushfires, continuing through the different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and recently drawn-out overseas elections, pure and simple sentiments take on renewed significance.
The five-day festival of lights observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and some Buddhists across the world is traditionally a time to let loose with family and friends. Highlights of the revelry include delicious feasts along with the exchanging of gifts and sweets.
Region Media spoke to two chefs acclaimed for showcasing South Asian cuisine in Canberra about what Diwali means to them and the festive food they love to eat.
Daana co-owner and chef Sanjay Kumar
Diwali is a sign of festivity and happiness in the air. I have childhood memories of the onset of winter in Delhi and lots of traditional sweets made at home and from the sweets shop as well. Of course, as a child, I was crazy about [fire] crackers, and lots of fairy lights, candles and traditional clay lamps were used as decorations as well.
Traditionally, Diwali is a vegetarian affair in most places. What I remember is the sweets made by my mother at home. Half-moon shaped shortcrust fried pastry filled with nuts and roasted semolina, called Ghujia. All the sweet Mithai shops are loaded with a range not seen anywhere else in the world. Each home has its own Diwali favourites, deep-fried bread called Pooris, with potato curry, fresh cottage cheese, and green pea curry to name a few that feature.
For the month of November, on Friday and Saturday nights, Daana is celebrating with a Diwali Bhoj showcasing a different regional Indian cuisine each week. A Bhoj is a luxurious feast, served with a spirit of generous hospitality. It is presented in an individual traditional thali, a platter that features an eye-bulging array of small dishes that gives you a little taste of everything from entrée, dessert and sides.
Daana is located at 83 Theodore St, Curtin, and is open for dinner Monday to Saturday from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm. Bookings via the website are essential.
Indian Accent owner and chef Venkatesh Ramachandran
Diwali is the festival of lights that Indians celebrate signifying the destruction of evil, and light over darkness. It is almost like Christmas for us. New clothes and jewellery are purchased for everyone in the family. There are fireworks, with plenty of food shared over the five-day celebration. Each day there are special prayers offered to different deities.
Sweets and savoury snacks are made in plenty and exchanged with friends and families. Some of the popular ones are Cashew Barfi, Laddu, Jalebis, Gulab Jamun, Mysore Pak, Murukku, Chivdas, and puffed rice spicy crispies. Each region in India has its own specialities with the main meal being a very elaborate affair.
Gulab Jamun is a specialty of the house at Indian Accent and is always on the menu. The popular Indian dessert is a crispy deep-fried dumpling soaked in cardamom flavoured sugar syrup. It is a sweet satisfying finish to any Diwali meal.
Indian Accent is located at 24 West Row, Canberra, and is open for lunch and dinner Monday to Saturday.