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Festive feasting: 3 chefs on their favourite Deepavali dishes

Apart from playing host to a slew of Halloween parties, this weekend marks an important holiday: Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights. Also known as Diwali, the festival symbolises the triumph of light over darkness, and is a major highlight of the Hindu calendar.

The holiday typically sees families lighting lamps and candles, decorating their homes with intricate Rangoli (coloured rice or flour) patterns, and, of course, celebrating with a sumptuous meal.

To get into the festive mood, we asked three chefs about their favourite Deepavali dishes.

Kuldeep Negi, Chef de Cuisine at Tiffin Room

Chef Kuldeep Tiffin Room
Chef Kuldeep Negi.

Favourite dish: Gulab Jamuns, which are milk-based sweets.

What I like about it: Gulab Jamuns are traditional Diwali sweets, which are also known as Mithai. We only had this on very special occasions when I was a boy, so I always associate it with festivals and celebrations. This dish reminds me of my grandmother, who would start two days before Diwali, spending six to eight hours daily making almost 1,000 pieces of these Gulab Jamuns for our family. Her only reward was the sheer joy on her grandchildren’s faces, when they had the first taste fresh out of the pan.

Deepavali at Tiffin Room
Tiffin Room serves up Gulab Jamuns and other Diwali sweets.

Tiffin Room’s version: The aroma of Gulab Jamuns reminds me of my grandmother till this day. She kept her recipe very classic and traditional, using rose water essence she made herself and pinches of saffron. I have actually tried to keep my version of Gulab Jamuns here at Tiffin Room quite close to my grandmother’s original recipe.

Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel Singapore, 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673, +65 6337 1886, www.raffles.com/singapore

Javed Ahamad, Corporate Chef of Punjab Grill Singapore

Punjab Grill Chef Javed
Chef Javed Ahamad of Punjab Grill Singapore.

Favourite dish: Vegetable Pulao, a rice dish with spices and vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower and French beans.

What I like about it: It’s a very simple dish that’s also very tasty. The basmati rice is cooked in vegetable broth, which brings out the flavours of its spices such as green cardamom and cinnamon. During Deepavali, my family members spend the whole morning preparing and cooking this dish at home.

Punjab Grill Vegetable Pulao
Punjab Grill’s Vegetable Pulao.

Punjab Grill’s version: I use a similar recipe at Punjab Grill, but with a modern spin. I also add ingredients such as saffron and yogurt.

Punjab Grill Singapore, B1-01A, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, South Podium, 2 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018972, +65 6688 7395, www.punjabgrill.com.sg

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Hemant Oberoi, Head Chef at Yantra by Hemant Oberoi

Hemant Oberoi Yantra
Hemant Oberoi is a celebrity chef who has cooked for the likes of US President Barack Obama.

Favourite dish: Sukka Palak Malai Ki Sabzi, which is tempered spinach with spiced reduced milk.

What I like about it: This is a simple but delicious dish of shredded spinach tempered with garlic, cumin and chillies, and topped with skimmed milk layers, which are sautéed with onions, turmeric and chillies. The flavour of the burnt garlic goes well with the spinach, while the milk is infused with light flavours of turmeric, ginger and coriander. This dish was made by my grandmother when I was growing up, and was usually served with a paratha.

Yantra Sukki Palak copy
Yantra’s Sukki Palak Malai Ki Sabzi.

Yantra’s version: My version of it at Yantra is different in presentation, but still retains the original flavours of the dish I grew up with.

Yantra by Hemant Oberoi, 163 Tanglin Road, Tanglin Mall #01-28/33, Singapore 247933, +65 6836 3088, www.yantra.com.sg

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Sara Yap
Deputy Director, Digital Operations (Asia)
Sara Yap is the Deputy Director of Digital Operations at BurdaLuxury, and a contributing writer to Lifestyle Asia’s dining and jewellery beats. When she’s not on the lookout for exciting new restaurants or bejewelled trinkets, she’s probably buried in a riveting read, or reminiscing the good ol’ days with her favourite playlist of ’90s boyband hits.