Nankhatai, then Abhyang Snaan

This is the only picture on this post. Uh huh! I am so excited!

Today is Narak Chaturdashi, the day when Narakasur the demon was defeated by Lord Krishna. The triumph of good over evil, yet again! Narak Chaturdashi is typically celebrated as Deepavali in our family.

There would be a race between families in our building to get up at the crack of dawn, get well-oiled by the woman of the house, have an abhyang snaan and rush downstairs to burst the first bomb of the day. As we grew older, we let the kids have that privilege. Who really wanted to get up that early anyway! And if we could have, we would have thrown a bucket of water on that well-scrubbed kid in new clothes who was jumping up and down with glee. We'd get our revenge when it was Holi!

After Abhyang Snaan, my mother would line us all up for a puja. She would make us look into little steel bowls with red water till we saw our face. Then she would give us what we really wanted: an envelope stuffed with money. But before that, we had to break the kaarit with our heel and then taste the bitterness it spewed. It was all very symbolic. To leave behind any bitterness associated with the past, to forgive and move on to a more fulfilling year ahead. We always cheated, we dipped one finger and licked another. But with the whole family watching, we always got caught! Which meant we had to lick the finger we had dipped and do it again properly. The brightly colored, always crisp, Rupee notes in the envelope helped soothe some of that trauma. But the best was what followed, Diwali cha faraal with pohe.

Then we made the rounds, from home to home, wishing everyone a Happy Diwali. At the end of the day, we had eaten several different types of pohe and a zillion variations of faraal. And we returned home with as many packets of faraal. The packet I looked forward to the most was the one from my Pushpamaushi's home. She made chaklis that melted in my mouth, karanjis that had the right amount of sugary sweetness with the goodness of fresh coconut, besan ladus with a hidden gem, a plump manuka, and her chivda was to die for. Memories...

My excitement, however, is about something else. I found two recipes in the deep recesses of my Mother's blue diary for nankhatai! My Mom made the best nankhatai ever and for years, I have been ruing the fact that I don't have her recipe. The instructions are a little vague and there is no mention of what temperature they should be baked at! I am pretty sure that this recipe is from the days when my Mom had a round counter-top electric oven, with a little glass window at the top. It lacked temperature control so whether it was a cake or a nankhatai or flan, they all baked at the same temperature! Since I don't know what that might be, I asked around and looked it up on Google. 375F for 20 minutes seemed to be the most popular suggestion. One batch at this temperature and I was rushing to pull them out within 15 minutes as the bottom had started charring and the cookies looked more brown than golden! They don't look very good but they taste just like nankhatai! The next batch went in at 300F for 30 minutes. They don't look great either but they're done.

Tomorrow, I will try Recipe #2 and see which one is more like the one my Mom used to make. It's entirely possible that she didn't use either of these recipes but since there's no way of knowing that now, we'll be happy with what we do have. Depending on which recipe works out best, I will try to post that with pictures. But I am making no promises!

Happy Diwali!

20 comments:

Pelicano said...

How wonderful that these two recipes survived! And that fact is another example of light triumphing over dark, yes? I'm sure with the help of all the other bloggers a decent working recipe can be brought to your hands. Peace to you dear friend, and I'm glad to see you so happy.(I have no idea what nankhatai is, but I hope to soon find out!)

I had my own trial tonight with Mysore pak; I think it worked out!

Manisha said...

Pel, you're the best! Nankhatai are Indian cookies sans egg. They have an almost besan ladu kind of texture, more floury than grainy. Traditionally nankhatai have more of a half sphere or dome shape, although I have seen them in flat avatars, too. Some describe them as being rather like shortbread cookies but the texture is very different! They are more powdery. Jyotsna has a lovely post on them and hers come the closest to looking like anything my Mom made in shape. Hers are more golden whereas my Mom's would be a pale gold.

And yes, it is like seeing the light!

Kitt said...

Happy Diwali!

Anita said...

Divali can be so much fun - all the silly rituals too -make it what it is.
I have never made nankhatais myself - though Jyotsanas recipe did look interesting that I wanted to give it a try. Look forward to your report on your new discovery.
Happy cooking!

Sia said...

ah nankatai... i am tempted to have them early in the morning and i am not a big fan of sweets. ur post made me all nostalgic manisha.... this is my 2 nd diwali i am celebrating away from my loved ones :(
did ur little one got abhyanjana? :) he he he... i always hated moring oil baths but never complained coz of all good things that followed after that;)
wishing you and ur loved ones a very happy deepavali:)

Rachna said...

awww nice description of the rituals...happy diwali to you and your family....

Latha Narasimhan said...

HAPPY DIWALI MANISHA!:)
Waiting for your recipes!:)

Suganya said...

I have never tasted nankhatai. You do the work for me and give me a workign recipe ;). Happy Diwali.

Kribha said...

Nice write-up. Enjoyed reading it.Happy Diwali to you and your family.

Rajitha said...

manisha..waiting for the recipe ;) loove nankatai..yum! my mouth is watering....

Ashwini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashwini said...

Happy Diwali to you and your family Manisha.
All the Diwali rituals you described are so familiar. I loved the uptan that my mom used to make with besan etc for abhyang snaan. And it was always Moti soap for the bath. My first Diwali in U.S. I actually missed Moti soap more than anything else!
I always made a fuss about the karit too!
And the faral - how did we ever manage to tuck in so much?
PS - eagerly waiting for the nankhatai recipe. Did you make sanzori?

Mandira said...

Nankhatai.. i love that, Manisha. Happy Diwali to you and your family. Have a great time.

Shilpa said...

Ahh all those rituals seem so familiar Manisha. I hated the taste of Kareet part too :D, (I know one person who would have loved to eat those...no prize for guessing who is our bitter-taste-fan friend). But in whole the festival was a lot of fun. The lights, the crackers..food was always my last priority for this festival. I am missing all the fun so much. No matter how much I tried this time, I could not get into Diwali mood :(.

dinzie said...

Wonderful story...I hope the recipes turn out fine for you :O)

D

Kelly Mahoney said...

I'm just now learning about Diwali and it sounds fabulous! Enjoy!

Manisha said...

Kitt, thank you!

Sia, the ones I made were not too sweet. Recipe #2 looks like it will be even less sweet. Medha loves it when I put oil on her hair, not so much on her body. She loves the head massage, after which I warm a damp towel in the microwave and wrap it around her head. I have a vested interest, of course, because I am hoping a few years down the line, she will return the favor! And, celebrate with friends - they're your family away from home!

Ashwini, for us it was Pears soap (which in Marathi was pee-uhrs, hee! hee!). We had a deal with our Mom: just some warm oil on our hair and a little on a small area of each of our arms. She would hand us the uptan to use in the bath, if we wanted. I loved the smell of besan!

I haven't yet made sanzori. Too many unnecessary things happening today like a screaming child, who is off from school, who came home with the most minor of scrapes because she took a tumble while playing a relay race. If you'd heard her, you would have thought she had broken several bones! I'm hoping to get to it tonight or perhaps tomorrow. I have a friend coming over who wants to make murukku that she recently learned from her South Indian landlady. I can't wait to make faraal with a friend!


Shilpa, we should have someone pickle kaarit during this season and send it across to him!

The mood is up to you! Enjoy with what you have rather than what you miss. You'll be just fine!


Kelly, it's a wonderful festival with lots of sharing and family thrown into it! Happy 1st Diwali to you!

I'm heading back into the kitchen in a bit for some more trials! I'll keep you all updated!

Sandeepa said...

Happy Diwali Manisha. You sure are having good times with friends & family

Cynthia said...

Happy Diwali to you and the family. I enjoyed those memories and looking forward to hearing more about your trials in the kitchen.

Sandy C. said...

Happy Diwali to you and the family. I love the pictures you paint with your words. I hope the recipes turn out wonderfully!