This year’s festive season is in full swing with Diwali celebrations just around the corner. This means a celebration coupled with some amazing foods. Typically, we tend to plan large-scale Diwali celebrations alongside family and friends. However, this year the celebrations will be limited on account of the COVID-19 crisis, but maybe that could mean we get to have grander celebrations at home.
Diwali is India’s biggest and most important holiday. This festival of lights celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. It marks the day Lord Rama returned home after 14 years of being in exile and battling the demon, King Ravana. To celebrate this joyous return of Lord Rama, people light up their houses with diyas, lights and rangolis.
For many, the most fun parts of the festivities are all the special Diwali sweets, otherwise known as, mithai. It is Indian tradition to prepare, distribute and enjoy these sweets with family, friends and neighbors alike. Diwali is the time of the year where we wholeheartedly indulge in these decadent sweet treats.
The following are some of India’s most popular sweets which are an absolute delight to present to your guests for Diwali. Add an extra special touch and pair them with these delicious wines and impress your friends and family this festive season.
Rabadi is a popular North Indian treat made with thickened milk that is delicately sweetened and has layers of malai [cream]. Cardamoms, saffron and dried fruits are added to enhance the flavors. The creamy textures of Rabadi are a perfect match for Pedro Ximenez (“PX”) sherry. This is a lusciously sweet sherry with notes of caramel and espresso. Try González Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez, it is sure to please your palate.
Gajar Halwa is made with grated carrots, ghee, sugar and condensed milk. To add complexity and richness, cardamon, and nuts are blended in. When I make Gajar Halwa I always have a slightly effervescent Moscato d’Asti on hand. My favorite is Michel Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2019.
Gulab Jamun is a quintessential Indian dessert of little pancake balls made of milk solids and flour that are soaked in a sweet rose flavored syrup. Everyone loves indulging in the sugary sweetness of Gulab Jamun. A lusciously sweet dessert-like Gulab Jamun deserves a decadent wine like the beautifully balanced Merry Edwards Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2018. I’m a huge fan.
Kalakand is a popular Diwali dessert prepared by reducing milk and sugar. It is often flavored with cardamom and rose essence. An off-dry Riesling will pair delectably with Kalakand. The bright acidity of the Riesling is a great match for the creaminess of the Kalakand. One of my favorite Rieslings is St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling QbA from Old Vines.
Kaju Katli is easily prepared with a creamy blend of cashew nut and milk topped with an edible silver leaf. The nuttiness of the cashews makes it an ideal pairing for a tawny port. A match made in heaven is Kaju Katli and Taylor Fladgate 20-Year-Old, made by one of the oldest and finest port houses in Portugal. You will savor every bite.
Kulfi is an intensely sweet dessert, most similar to ice cream. It is traditionally made with milk that is simmered for hours, which gives it a caramelized flavor. Try a Tokaji with this dessert. Tokaji from Hungary is one of the most historic and delicious dessert wines. Chateau Dereszla 2009 Aszú 5 Puttonyos (Tokaji) pairs exceptionally well with Kulfi. The creamy flavors of the Kulfi can be accompanied by enticing aromas of butterscotch, vanilla and caramel in the Tokaji. This is over-the-top luscious goodness.