Here's how a religious celebration brings out the best Indian street food
Sunday November 3rd marked the 550th birthday of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. In honour of his birthday, Sikh communities across the globe hold a 'Nagar Kirtan' which is when Sikhism's holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, is transported on a float through the streets while reciting hymns.
This is held on special occasions in events which honour the ten Gurus. This usually happens twice in the UK, once in November and once at the end of April.
I went to the celebrations in Southall, a town in west London. A whopping 43.4% of the population in Southall were born outside of the UK, which shows why this town is referred to as 'Little India'. Southall and neighbouring areas have a huge Sikh population so it's no surprise why this 12-hour festival attracts over 30,000 people per year.
Let's get stuck into some of the grub that's available:
Food is given out to the people visiting the parade venue which is all free. This follows the Sikh principle that everyone should have food regardless of race, gender or religion. There are numerous stalls which give out different food items.
Most of these food items are very popular in Punjab, the state in India from which Sikhism originates, but these are also from other parts of India as well as Punjab.
This is essentially a fried bread made from wheat and flour, with added herbs and spices such as coriander and cumin seeds. This is then traditionally served with curried chickpeas which top the whole thing off. Here is a picture I took of the process. So many people were involved in the making of this!
Another pleasure of street food is that you see it being made in the background and you have people of all ages serving you the fresh and delicious food. These stalls are often family run and you will always see the children of the family trying to prompt you to take their various forms of Coke, Sprite and Tropicana.
Most of you may be familiar with the well known Indian cheese Paneer. This is a rather thick cheese which is often found in various forms of curries, but many are unaware of the simple 'Pakora'. This is a fritter made from gram flour, hot water and spinach. This is then used as a batter to coat a square slice of paneer.
It's then fried and served with lots of different types of chutneys and sauces. Traditionally, the paneer pakora would be topped with a powder which tastes quite sour and spicy. This is known as 'chat masala'.
Safe to say this is a snack that wouldn't last long on my plate!
I am often criticised for my hatred of chillies, so I might as well show it via my lack of chutney. Here is an 'Aloo Tikki; which roughly translates to potato patty. It is a potato disc filled with tons of spice, onions and coriander as well as cumin seeds.
This is then offered with a topping of horseradish (used a lot in Asian cooking), even more onions and yogurt. Chutneys include a spicy sauce, a tamarind sauce and a mint sauce mixed with spinach. As demonstrated by the picture below which is the one my dad customised, this can be an explosion of flavours.
Is there anything for dessert?
As a lot of people know, Indian sweets are renowned across the world for their distinctive tastes as well as their high sugar levels. Here are a few of my favourite dishes to satisfy your sweet tooth:
I don't really know how I can describe this sugar packed treat. It's essentially a fried dough ball coated in a sweet syrup. It tastes quite good and is a good way to recover from the heat some Indian food packs. These little delights are fried and coated in front of you so you get a real sense of freshness.
This is so addictive I can genuinely eat a whole kilogram box in one sitting. This is made via making some sort of runny cake mixture and then feeding it through a small hole, like an icing pipe.
It's then poured into frying oil and cooks for about four minutes. This is then taken out and left to cool for a further two minutes, and is placed into another sugary syrup which gives the Jalebi its signature sweet taste.
These are given out in paper bags because these treats are renowned for their sticky feel. It is impossible to have non-sticky hands after eating this.
This is more commonly known as rice pudding. This sweet dish consists of boiling milk and sugar, then adding either rice, tapioca/sago or vermicelli. Nuts like almonds and pistachios are also used in this versatile dessert. Some people even put saffron in it. Imagine chowing down on rice and the world's most expensive spice at the same time.
Kheer is traditionally served hot, but sometimes it is served cold, which is the way I personally like it. This dish is great for those who don't like sugar, as it can be made with no sugar at all.
On the day of walking to this celebration venue, I had a bad cramp in my leg which really hurt. I had some of this Badam Milk and I immediately recovered. Badam translates to Almonds in English and it's known for its various health benefits in the Asian community.
To get this, you blend almonds up and then throw in a few bits of saffron which is known as 'kesar'. Then boil the milk until you get a nice aromatic smell from the spices and the almonds. Pour yourself a good glass of the milk and the rest speaks for itself!
This is such a nice drink to have during this specific celebration, which was at the start of a very chilly winter in early November. This is sure to warm you and your taste buds up.