Indian Diwali Food Traditions Travel the World (With the Help of a Wauwatosa Grocer) (2023)

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"Delicious Diwali lights, clothes and food!"

"May Lakshmi," the Hindu goddess of prosperity, "bless you with fortune."

"May the light of Diwali brighten your day."

Members of the Indian community will exchange these greetings, likely in one of India's 14 languages, when Diwali (also known as Deepavali or Dipavali), the Festival of Lights, begins on October 24. Diwali lasts for five days and is possibly the most beautiful time of the year for millions of people around the world who practice the Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions.

"Diwali is like Christmas, people put lamps in their houses but they also make fireworks like we do on the 4th of July," Dinesh Sanghavi said.

To prepare for the holiday, Indian families clean and decorate their homes and dress in traditional attire: sarees for women and kurtas for men. Every Diwali celebration includes an elaborate array of sweet and savory Indian delicacies.

And that's where the Milwaukee region plays a role.

Thanks to Dinesh Sanghavi and his wife Bharti, the city has become a national force in the world of Indian food. His store, Indian Groceries & Spices in Wauwatosa, has grown from small beginnings to become one of the largest purveyors of Indian goods in the country.

Bharti Sanghavi shares traditional Christmas recipes with everyday favorites in her book, Beyond Curry with Bharti. He also provides hands-on instruction through monthly cooking classes from May through October at the store at 10701 W. North Ave,

He started out as the family sous chef.

Bharti Sanghavi grew up in a large Indian family and was the family's sous chef.

“As the second youngest of eight children, I was tasked with chopping, grating and slicing in the kitchen. Supporting such a large family was a great achievement and we take cooking very seriously. Every meal was homemade every day; We hardly went out to eat," he said.

At 16, circumstances forced her early promotion to executive chef.

“My mother broke her toe and my grandmother came to help. I thought she was there to cook but to my surprise she named me chef while she kindly gave me instructions. Within two weeks I not only became a good cook, but I developed the confidence to cook almost anything,” said Bharti Sanghavi. "My older brothers, who had spent their lives making fun of me, were now in awe of what I could do in the kitchen..."

"As I got older, I kept going back to my true love of cooking, taking regional cooking classes until I was able to cook all kinds of Indian cuisine," she said.

The family filled the need for Indian food.

When Bharti Sanghavi arrived in Milwaukee in the 1970s, she was faced with a challenge: finding ingredients for Indian cooking.

“I came to the United States in 1976, just married and alone for the first time. The availability of Indian food and products has been low or non-existent,” he said.

But her boyfriend worked to meet that challenge. In 1972, out of necessity, Dinesh and his older brother opened a small store near the Mitchell Park Domes on National Avenue.

The Sanghavi brothers practice the Jain religion, one of the three main religions of India (Hindu and Sikh are the other two). Jain and Sikhad are strictly vegetarian.

“As Jains, we believe in vegetarianism. We also don't eat tubers or eggs,” said Dinesh Sanghavi. "We couldn't find good vegetarian food in Milwaukee, so we drove to New York in a Chevy Vega to get it.

"I was a chemical engineer and my brother Shirish (who died five years ago) was a mechanical engineer."

The Sanghavi brothers kept their day jobs while Shirish Sanghavi's wife, Premila, was in charge of the shop. “We had the idea to import, then we got our first container in the lake from the port of Milwaukee,” Dinesh Sanghavi said. "And we started sourcing directly from India."

Fast forward 50 years and the store now occupies 25,000 square feet in Wauwatosa. In 2000, the Sanghavis started an e-commerce business that grew out of their teenage son's school work.

"My son Neil created a website for the store as a project at Nicolet Secondary School," said Dinesh Sanghavi.

This project has, now a global destination billing itself as the largest online store for all things Indian. Members of the Indian community, vegetarians, and foodies appreciate the availability of items such as best-selling basmati rice, various types of ghee, a large selection of chai teas, and ready meals, all prepared in an Oak Creek facility. .

Further:Sweet holiday: Hindu festival Diwali marked with bright lights and sweets

sweets for the festival

Diwali, like most Christmas celebrations, requires preparation in advance. On the big day, a special afternoon menu takes center stage.

"Diwali starts a few days earlier when people clean, decorate and beautify their houses," said Bharti Sanghavi.

A yogurt-based dish, shrikhand, takes pride of place.

"We use yoghurt because we don't have milk… it's not cheap. I'm from the western part of India; not boiling milk is a tradition in our community and quite common across India," she said.

The rich yogurt also adds sweetness and flavor, with nuts, sugar and cardamom, he said.

For the Sanghavi family, it wouldn't be Diwali without ghughara, a pastry filled with almonds and pistachios. The recipe gets rave reviews.

"Everyone who tries our recipe says, 'This is the best ghughara I've ever had,'" said BhartiSanghavi.

The feast often includes a variety of specialty dishes, including date and walnut bars and crispy lentils.


Als Dinesh Bharti traf

Dinesh and Bharti Sanghavi are not on the Indian Matchmaking TV show, but they probably should be. In the mid-1970s, he took a leave of absence from his engineering work.

"I told my boss at Johnson Controls that I was going to India to find a girlfriend and that I would be back in four to six weeks," recalls Dinesh Sanghavi.

But the process took a little longer.

“My family started putting marriage announcements in the newspapers. They set up interviews and I went to 50 of them,” she said. "I kept extending my (work) vacation."

Two and a half months later, Dinesh ended his search. "I was number 51," BhartiSanghavi recalled.

How many potential boyfriends had she met during her matchmaking process? "Dinesh was number 3," she admitted with a giggle.

On February 7, 1976, the couple married and came to Milwaukee to live happily… and very well fed.



These bars are made with dates, cashews, almonds and pistachiosno added sugar They make excellent energy bars. This recipe is from"Beyond the Curry with Bharti"Von Bharti Sanghavi.

Date and walnut bars (khajoor tukda)

makes 15 pieces

Recipe tested by Pete Sullivan

  • ¼ cup raw almonds, halved widthwise
  • ¼ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup raw pistachios
  • ½ pound Medjooldates, fresh, pitted (about 13 dates)
  • ½ teaspoon ghee, plus more for brushing (see note)

Mix all the nuts together and toast them in a medium skillet over medium heat for four to five minutes, stirring occasionally so they toast evenly. Put aside

Fry the dates in a small skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. They melt into a thick mush.

Remove the dates from the heat and add the walnuts. Mix well.

Cover a cutting board and saucepan with ½ teaspoon of ghee. Make a smooth ball of the date-walnut mixture and roll into a ½-inch-thick square sheet on the cutting board.

Spread the ghee over the mixture. Let cool 15 to 20 minutes.

Cut into 1½ x 1½-inch squares.

Store in the fridge. Serve at room temperature.

Use:Ghee is clarified butter that is sold in Indian markets and many other grocery stores. It can be made at home by melting butter until the milk solids separate and rest at the bottom of the saucepan; Drain the clarified liquid butter, leaving the solids behind. Let cool and set.


Chorafali is a traditional snack for Diwali festival. Hailing from the Indian state of Gujarat, chorafali is a highly anticipated meal on the Diwali table, as it is typically prepared once a year. Chorafali are light and fluffy snacks that melt in your mouth. This recipe is a personal recipe of Bharti Sanghavi.

Crispy Lentils (Chorafali)

Makes 10 cups

Recipe tested by Pete Sullivan

  • ½ cup water plus 2 tablespoons
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda or papad khar (alkaline salt)
  • 3 teaspoons of neutral oil, plus more for frying and greasing the surface
  • 2 cups chickpea flour (besan or chickpea flour)
  • 1 cup urad (lentil) flour (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of black salt

In a small saucepan, bring ½ cup water, salt, baking soda, and oil to a boil. put out the fire.

In a large bowl, mix the flours. Gradually add the hot water mixture and mix with a spoon. Add another 2 tablespoons of room temperature water to get a firm dough.

Knead the dough on a flat surface with a little oil. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the chili powder and black salt to garnish the finished chips later.

Halve resting dough for easier kneading. Knead one portion for a few minutes until the color of the dough becomes lighter.

Roll the dough into a rope about 7 inches long and cut into 7 equal parts. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece until it is 5 inches wide. Cut it into ½-inch-wide strips.

Heat 1 to 2 inches of oil in a wok or heavy medium saucepan to 375 degrees. Place 2 or 3 strips in the oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. They take a few seconds to inflate after adding the oil. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle some chili powder and black salt on top.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Serve at room temperature. It can be stored in airtight jars for 3 to 4 weeks.

Use:The flours and other ingredients are available in South Asian markets, including Indian Groceries & Spices.

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