The Hindu festival of Holi, also known as Phagwah, is soon approaching and I can't help but feel the optimism and joy that the holiday tends to evoke. The purpose of this colorful extravaganza is two-fold; celebrating the new season of spring and also the religious significance of good over evil. Hindus observe this holiday by smearing colored powder, all over their friends and family, lighting bonfires, and enjoying music and dance.
The colored powder, known as abir, comes in so many different colors that when thrown into the air, everything just looks like a Crayola plant exploded into pieces - it's all just so vibrant and energizing to me. Sweets are prepared and also shared with loved ones to celebrate this wonderful time of year. In my family, gulgula, which is a sweet banana fritter, is commonly made among other goodies like goja, a coconut stuffed patty and vermicelli cake, colored with a little pink, yellow, or green food coloring. What would a celebration of anything be without food?
My childhood memories of Phagwah I remember the very first year I attended the Phagwah parade in Richmond Hill, Queens. It was so much fun seeing everyone in the community happy and just embracing the festivities. I couldn't even tell who was who out there; it was just a sea of pink. I remember my brother filling up his super soaker nerf gun with water that had been mixed with abir to ensure when he sprayed us, we'd come back home a different color than when we left the house you always had to watch out for anyone that had a nerf gun.
My cousins and I ran up and down Liberty avenue as we made our way to Smokey Park; running away from each other to avoid getting smeared and soaked, even though we knew it was inevitable and all a part of the fun. We had such a blast! When it was all over, my mom picked us up from the parade, with the interior of her car lined with garbage bags to avoid getting the seats stained. We headed over to my uncle's house to enjoy some sweets, including one of my favorites- gulgula.
That night, no matter how much I showered, no matter how much I scrubbed, my face was still pink, and well, a little green and blue too. The abir just didn't come off! I went to school the next day and certainly received a lot of strange looks. I mean can you blame my non-Hindu classmates? The last time they saw me I didn't look like a rainbow threw up on me! I took the opportunity to educate my teacher and classmates about my culture and why my skin was so pink.
Naturally, they all wanted to come to the parade with me the following year. I have not attended the Phagwah parade in many many years, but when it comes to mind it reminds me of a time well spent with family and friends as we embraced the arrival of a bright and beautiful time of year. Today I'd like to share with you my mom's gulgula recipe, it's a favorite of my cousin, Ashley. She always used to wait patiently for Phagwah to come around for my mom's "sweet pholourie" as she would commonly call it. She said it tasted even better when made especially during Holi. For all those celebrating next week, have a happy and safe Holi!
|Holi celebrations (photo taken from Google Images)|
You'll need two very ripe bananas.
Peel and get ready to mash it up- the banana, not the dance floor. (I cut this recipe in half since it's just my husband and I that will eat it- that's why you only see one banana here).
Until it's as smooth as you can get it.
Add the following spices, sugar, and extract.
Stir in the flour and baking powder.
Fold in any raisins or maraschino cherries, if you desire them.
Use two spoons to drop batter into hot oil. Scoop up some batter with one spoon and use the other to sort of shape the batter before dropping it into the oil. Fry until dark brown, but not burnt, drain on paper towel.
Mom's Gulgula (Banana Fritters)
- 2 ripe bananas
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or mixed essence
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- handful raisins
- maraschino cherries, chopped (optional)
- oil for frying
- In a large mixing bowl, peel and mash bananas until smooth.
- Add sugar, spices, and vanilla extract, mix in well; set aside.
- In a separate bowl, sift flour and baking powder together.
- Stir flour into banana mixture, combine thoroughly. Fold in desired amount of raisins or chopped maraschino cherries. Let mixture rest for 20 minutes.
- Heat a deep pot with enough oil to fry gulgula.
- Use two small spoons to shape batter and drop into hot oil. Scoop up some batter with one spoon and use the other to sort of shape the batter before dropping it into the oil. Turn frequently to ensure even browning. Fry until dark brown.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Bananas must be very ripe to achieve the best flavor.
- The amount of flour you'll need will vary based on how big or small the bananas are, start with ½ cup. Batter should be slightly thicker than cake batter and should be able to slightly hold its shape when dropped into the oil. If this does not happen, add more flour -a tbsp at a time until consistency is reached.
- Do a taste test by frying one gulgula first before frying up the entire bowl of batter so you can check to see if there is enough sugar and spices to suit your palate.