The Hindu festival of lights is right around the corner, with plenty of delicious foods surely to be shared across Malaysia for the day.
With food playing such an integral role in our society and culture, Malaysia Tatler speaks to entrepreneurs Ganesh Muren of Saora Industries and Sasibai Kimis of Earth Heir to learn just what makes food so central to the Deepavali celebrations.
What are some of the things you look forward to with your Deepavali celebrations every year?
Ganesh Muren (GM): Just being with my family. When I prepare for Deepavali, it’s a ritual in a sense that I start by clearing my agenda for a few days around the day itself, make note of what I want to wear, or if there’s a theme for the family this year, and even note what time I need to be up and ready for breakfast. It’s about dedicating myself and my time to my family, a privilege not everyone has that I am thankful for.
Sasibai Kimis (SK): Going back to my hometown Ipoh! When my grandmother was well, she's also a fantastic cook, Deepavali was a time for feasting, playing with firecrackers with all the neighbourhood kids and meeting up with cousins and family friends. It is the one time of the year when our families are unhindered to just chill, eat, catch up and have fun!
Can you tell us what dishes are a household speciality at your home during the festivities?
GM: This may sound odd, but my family loves having ikan bilis sambal. When we were younger, Deepavali consisted of visits to temples, prayers, simple morning breakfasts and visits to relatives. We didn’t have much to spend on food but we would always look forward to going back home after visits to eat with our own family and ikan bilis sambal was always there. We would eat it with nasi lemak, string hoppers, chapati or just plain rice. Until today, we must have ikan bilis sambal on Deepavali day. It just brings our family together.
SK: Fried chicken! My grandma would make a mountain of them and all of us kids would be running around and coming into the kitchen to grab a piece before going back to playing. Also, muruku and athirasam. Even as I have begun to eat a more vegetarian-focused diet, indulging in fried chicken occasionally is part of my routine.
In your opinion, what foods are a must have at any household during Deepavali?
GM: Any dishes that brings the family together and fills hearts with warm feelings and fond memories. Those dishes are a must. It could come in the form of a whole roasted lamb leg, mashed potatoes or colourful coconut candy.
SK: I don’t think there are musts per se, but the all glorious muruku is something I believe every home will have.
What are your favourite snacks or sweets during this festive season?
GM: That’s a tough question! But If I had to choose, it would be the neiyi urundai or Ghee Balls in English. They’re not easy to make, takes time to prepare and requires lots of skill and precision. They look deceptively dull, but once you pop them into your mouth it just melts and covers your soul. Literally!
SK: Fried chicken, muruku, peanut cookies and this delicious palm sugar glutinous rice (pulut) we make at home.
What do you think makes Indian food so unique and different to other cuisines?
GM: The Indian civilisation is old and rich, as there is a fine mixture of preserved tradition and assimilated influences from visitors. That is why Indian food is rich in taste, colour and texture. It uses a myriad combination of spices for different dishes.
SK: I love how the spices used in Indian cooking have lots of health benefits, like turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin, annis seeds, cardamom and etc.
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