If you want to lay out the best Diwali spread, you need to work fast. The earlier you stock the snack jars at home, the more peaceful the process is likely to be. You could jostle through the crazed crowds closer to D-Day, but the chaos is a given, and the more popular stores often run out of their quota of chaklis and chivda. We recommend you book in advance to avoid the last-minute rush. Stores have already begun accepting orders.
For karanjis – crescent-shaped parcels of coconut – you could always go to old favourites like Panshikar, but there is also the tiny, unassuming Aaple Dukaan store in Vile Parle that is big on taste. The karanji fillings are made of grated sukka-naaral (dry coconut) or olaa-naaral (fresh coconut) and are available deep fried in pure ghee, or baked, which makes them marginally healthier. While you’re in the neighbourhood, stock up on chivda from Vijay Stores and the diamond-shaped shankarparas at Kutumb Sakhi. They’re so deceptively light and crunchy, they’ll be gone before you know it. Best purchased in large quantities.
For a more sinful version of the karanji, try Punjabi Chandu Halwai Karachiwala or Ghasitaram Halwai. They prepare gujiyas – also crescent-shaped – except they are stuffed with a mawa filling. The stores are also known for their excellent halwa, pinni (a laddoo made of urad dal and dry fruits), jalebis and doda milk burfi.
Around the corner from Punjabi Chandu Halwai Karachiwala in Colaba, Kailash Parbat keeps Sindhis in the area on a happy sugar high. On offer, is ghevar and mohan thal, a large doughnut-shaped cardamom-flavoured gram flour-fudge topped with almonds. For Tamilian sweetmeats like the bright orange jhangri (a thicker, more sugary version of the jalebi) and Mysore pak there’s no place like Sri Krishna Sweets.
But if you’d rather limit your stocking to a restricted area, head for Dadar and Lalbaug. Godbole Stores offers a special seven kilogram festive hamper packed with Maharashtrian sweets and savouries, diyas, aamras and uttan (sandalwood body scrub), to send to relatives abroad. It’s priced at R6,161 inclusive of shipping costs.
You can gorge on chaklis at Panshikar and find your way to Ladoo Samrat for the best ladoos in town. For a crash course in Diwali savouries stroll down Lalbaug’s Chivda Galli. The lane is crammed with stores that stock chivda of every imaginable kind. There’s the traditional Maharashtrian version made from crispy fried yellow poha, the crunchy batata sali chivda, makai chivda made of corn flakes and the south-Indian mixture that’s higher on spice levels and has plenty of curry leaves. Happy feasting.
By Mithila Phadke on November 04 2011
Photos by Mohnish Dabhoya