Makan Makan Deepavali, a culinary and cultural experience
Did you know that the five fingers that we eat with represent the five elements: earth, water, fire, space and air?
Therefore, whenever you eat, all five fingers have to touch the food. After mixing the food with your fingers, your thumb should be used to push the food into your mouth.
On November 20th, Yayasan Perpaduan Sarawak (YPS) and Sarawak Development Institute (SDI) along with local youth group The Champions organised Makan Makan Deepavali at the Indian Association of Kuching (IAK) Hall, Rock Road.
The collaborative partners on the project were IAK and AIESEC, Unimas.
Held in conjunction with the Deepavali celebrations, the scrumptious event saw food lovers eating delicious four-course Indian meals with their right hands.
As it was a first for some people to be eating with their hands, it was fortunate that the dining experience was accompanied by a commentator, Balachandran Annamalai, a member of IAK who explained the right way to eat Indian food.
Served up a combination of both Southern and Northern Indian food, food lovers got to experience the best of both regions as Balachandran explained that the north usually consumed bread while the south, rice.
Being served a four-course meal prepared by Nandu’s Delight, we were first served with the light fare first consisting of colourful snacks of sweet, spicy and sour flavours.
Balachandran explained that the host would usually serve something light to to let visitors settle first before being served with the main cuisine.
He also explained that when visitors ate at their host’s house, they should be served wholeheartedly and this can be seen where the women of the house would be serving the guests (representing a mother serving food during meal time) while the husband would sit with them and urge guests to eat more and get a second helping every now and then.
Once the light, pre-meal snacks was cleared, the anticipation for the meal was evident in everybody’s faces in the hall as they waited for the servers to serve them a plate of poori (deep fried unleavened bread), chapati (unleavened bread), paruppu vadai (deep fried lentil dough), ulundhu vadai, and urulai kizhangu (potato masala).
With so many different elements on the plate, Balachandran guided us on how to eat them properly.
He advised that poori was best eaten with the potato masala or the green peas. Meanwhile, the light and fluffy ulundhu vadai, which is made from white lentil and looks like a small donut, is preferably eaten with chutney.
The one that everyone was waiting for, the banana leaf, was finally served as the main course.
According to Balachandran, if you are served with the head of the banana leaf (the pointy part of the leave), it signifies that you are the guest of honour. The reason being is that there is only one head of banana leaf.
Aside from that, the head of the leaf has to be pointed towards the left so that the flow of energy would go in that direction.
Consisting of ghee rice, papadam (crispy seasoned dough), kolli varuval (masala chicken), stir fried long beans, muttakos (stir fried cabbage), pakora (deep fried cauliflower), and attu erachi (mutton with potato curry), it was not a surprise when people started asking for a second serving of each dish.
Each guest was also served with rasam, a sort of herby soup which is said to aid digestion.
To show that you have finished your meal, guests fold the banana leaf with the edges towards them to show that they enjoyed the meal and thank the host for the food as well as showing that they would definitely come again.
On the other hand, if the banana leaf is folded with the edges facing away from the diner, this means that while they are also thanking the host for the food, they hope not to come again for the meal.
The folding of the leaf is crucial as leaving it open will prompt bad elements to come in.
To end the superb dinner, we were served dessert, which in my opinion is the best part of any meal.
Makan Makan Deepavali was the first of the four annual MakanMakan to be held in conjunction with the four major cultural festivals in Malaysia: Chinese New Year, Hari Gawai, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Deepavali.
Makan Makan is a cultural dinner experience aimed at learning and sharing the diverse food culture, practices and traditions of the many ethnic group in Malaysia, by featuring traditional and authentic cuisine from other culture and educate the community about the rich heritage and culture of each different community.
The next MakanMakan session will be Makan Makan Chinese New Year on February 2106.
For more info and updates of the MakanMakan experience or any activities by The Champions, check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/thechampionskch/ or website at http://www.thechampionskch.com/