No Indian festival is complete without a table full of traditional dishes to celebrate the day. This Vasant Panchami, think yellow and splash the bright hues in your recipes too, with these five traditional dishes that usually win the hearts and palates of households across the country.
Like every year, a cool breeze of new beginnings sweeps through, ringing the arrival of festivals that mark the gradual change of seasons from crisp winter to brighter spring. Trailing ahead from the ceremonial times of Lohri, Makar Sankranti, and Pongal, we are already looking at celebrating the most significant festival of spring called Vasant Panchami, also marked as Saraswati Puja in many regions of India —often seen synonymous to the colour yellow. For the uninitiated, this bright and happy colour finds a life of its own during Vasant Panchami because it is widely associated with the bloom of yellow mustard flowers and is also known as goddess Saraswati’s favoured colour.
And it is only natural to witness yellow and its many hues deluge our homes during the festival, especially in the kitchens and on the dining tables. Of the many recipes that define the joyous spirit of Vasant Panchami, here are the five most traditional and popular dishes India loves to dig into.
There’s no recipe devoid of the delicate threads of saffron, also known as kesar, during Vasant Panchami. What makes it special in visuals and on the palate is its ombre yellow-saffron hue that stands distinct from the usual bowl of the off-white sheera. Making the kesari sheera is a breeze but it requires the right amount of ingredients for the perfect consistency – what you need in the pantry is roasted semolina, ghee, sugar, kesar and water and a generous trove of nuts and dry fruits to complete the sheera.
Sweet saffron rice
Every Indian household has at some point sampled the soft but discernible flavours of the sweet saffron rice, also known as meethe chawal or zarda in North India. Meethe chawal is almost like an unsaid, quintessential dish that is prepared as the hero meal of Vasant Panchami. Soaked rice is flavoured with saffron and cooked with ghee, sugar, dry fruits and spices like cloves and cardamom. Expect a barrage of fresh aroma and lingering sweet notes of the diverse ingredients to enchant your palate instantly.
Boondi ke laddoo
There’s nothing more popular and ubiquitous than the tempting sight of laddoos at Indian homes during festivals. On auspicious day of Vasant Panchami, one of the most traditionally significant dishes is boondi ke laddoo that beautifully pile up the festive platter and is offered as bhog to goddess Saraswati as well. Boondi is essentially fried and sugar-drenched tiny grains of gram flour batter made with ghee and cardamon, finally rolled into sizeable balls or laddoos.
In eastern parts of India, especially West Bengal, Assam, and Bihar, Saraswati Puja is not complete without the bright, delicious sights of khichudi, the fragrant porridge-like Indian dish made of rice, lentils and spices. A platter of slow-cooked khichudi during Vasant Panchami is paired with begun bhaja or eggplant fritters, mixed vegetables, chutney made of dates, payesh or kheer and servings of mishti doi or nolen gur roshogulla.
A slight variation to the chawal (rice) ki kheer is this makhana kheer made with fox nuts, or simply known as makhana. This sweet recipe is one of the easiest and readily prepared under thirty minutes and tastes equally delectable as the perfect meal ender. To give it the bite-sized, soft texture, makhana is usually roasted with ghee and half of its portion is crushed and mixed nicely with milk, sugar and a touch of saffron.