Diwali in Wellington
Diwali 2019 fell on October 27, but Wellington is celebrating the festival of lights on 24 November with dancing, festivities, fireworks and food at the TSB Arena from 1.30 pm.
It’s a five day festival, symbolising the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance", and widely celebrated by Indians around the world in India, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Trinidad and Jamaica.
And, of course, food and eating to your heart’s content is a huge part of celebrations, bringing friends and family together. We chatted to Executive Chef and Visa WOAP Rimutaka Gate to Plate mentor chef, Chetan Pangam of Copthorne Hotel’s Restaurant One80.
How are you spending Diwali 2019? Do you have any particular traditions that you partake with your family to celebrate?
We tend to stick to traditions we grew up with, especially now that we have two children, Varun (9-years-old), and Maahi (2-years-old).
We’re trying to keep a bit of the Indian tradition in them, so we go to the temple, we do fireworks, we make sweets at home, we buy new clothes to wear on the day, and we do prayers at home and temple because Diwali is the festival of lights, our houses are usually lit up inside and outside.
We’re spending Diwali with friends in Wellington with a dinner organised for 30-40 people. Traditions we enjoy are waking up early in the morning and having an oil rub, a visit to the temple, and enjoying homemade sweets and savouries, and fireworks.
We also have rangolis – colourful floor decorations placed at the entrance of their homes, usually made up of sand, flour, rice or flower petals.
What is the role of food during Diwali?
It is an integral part of Diwali. It brings friends and families together to enjoy delicious homemade sweets and savouries.
Is there a Diwali dish at One80 Restaurant this year?
Every year at One80, we create a Diwali thali (platter) with a selection of Indian dishes.
What are your favourite Diwali dishes, snacks or sweets?
Besan (made with gram flour) and Rava (semolina) ladoos, little round sweet dumplings. I also love chakli, which are a spiral, crispy, fried savoury.
What do you look forward to the most about Diwali every year?
Food, friends and family, fireworks. We also give sweets to all our family and friends during this time.
We’re listing a few of our favourite spots for Indian cuisine around Wellington - do you have any particular places you’d like to recommend?
Our family is quite keen on Chilli Masala in Lower Hutt, Taste of India on Cambridge Terrace, and for sweets, Bikanerwala in Petone and Simply Indian in Petone and Lower Hutt. Also, One80 Restaurant! Our menus are Indian influenced and we do a lot of Indian functions as well as bespoke menus for weddings and parties.
Wellington eats for Diwali
Check out some of our favourite spots for Indian cuisine around Wellington!
Taste of India
This wee curry takeaway shop on Cambridge Terrace must be doing something right, because it’s been around for eons. Don’t ask us for how long (and feel free to let us know if you actually do know), but not only has it been open for eons, it always seems to have a collection of people queued at the door in patient desperation, sharp on 5:30pm, when the shop opens. All of its tandoor meats are cooked in actual tandoor ovens, and word, is it’s the home of the best butter chicken in Wellington.
When the Visa WOAP team is hankerin’ for Indian food, we hop the fence to Great India (it’s in the same building as our office). As well as being geographically desirable, Great India has just made the list of 2019 finalists for Cuisine Magazines’ Good Food Awards.
Samosas are a big part of Indian cuisine, but Diwali is their time to shine, with these little triangles of fried, stuffed pastry being enjoyed more so than any other time of the year. Great India will hook you up with vegetable, lamb and chicken samosas.
The Spice Rack
The Spice Rack has been around for more than 25 years on Jackson Street in Petone, so if you’re planning on cooking up a storm for Diwali festivities, a trip to this vast Indian emporium will sort you out with wall-to-wall Indian grocery items such as spices, chutneys, snacks, dhal, lentils, pickles and pastes.
Indian Sweets & Snacks
Look, we heard you were planning on cooking up a storm for Diwali festivities. But do yourself a favour, and grab some of these little morsels at Indian Sweets & Snacks in Newtown. Diwali is a festival where you really get to indulge your sweet tooth in symbolism of celebrating the sweetness of life! Cakes, pastries, desserts and candies - called mithai - are bought exchanged freely with friends and family, especially on the second day of the festival.
And in a true yardstick of a successful ethinic culinary experience, you’ll find many members of the Indian community frequenting Indian Sweets & Snacks, so you know you’re eating in the right place.
Brahman food truck
A lot of Indian food caters to vegetarians and vegans, but you’ll find people of all dietary persuasions chasing down the Brahman Food Truck as it parks up around Wellington (you’ll find it largely around Frank Kitts Park during the week, and at various markets around the weekends). It has Masala Dosai, Kadai Veggie Roti Wrap, Malabar Paratta and Veggie Korma, Tamarind Rice and Potato curry, and Mango Lassi (and also caters to the gluten frees!).
Chaiwalla food truck
Nothing beats putting your feet up at the end of the day with a nice cup of tea. Chaiwalla is a wee timber food truck, built by owner, Rahul Minhas, and which specialises in chai tea (made with Indian spices, hand-ground by Rahul). Alongside the chai, you’ll also find cardamom coffee, masala soda, and vegan fritters and skewers. You’ll find Chaiwalla stationed up at food markets in the Hutt and Wellington.