Food has traditionally been a major component of Diwali, but in the absence of the usual mass public celebration, one top Auckland chef is launching his range of restaurant quality sauces and spice kits so people can cook their own flavoursome Indian dinners at home.
Executive chef and restaurateur Sid Sahrawat, who owns award-winning modern Indian restaurant Cassia among others, said he had been toying with the idea of home sauces and spice kits since this year's lockdown.
"The Cassia takeaway menu proved so popular when Aucklanders couldn't eat out, we found it hard to keep up with demand," Sahrawat said.
"Launching this range of sauces and spices seemed like the logical next step."
This year's Auckland Diwali Festival has been modified as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the usual plethora of street food and having food stalls lined along Queen St was seen as too much of a risk.
Instead, cooking classes on snacks, sweets and traditional dishes are being offered to give an insight into Indian food and enabling people to cook their own Indian meals at home.
Sahrawat, whose team at Cassia have bottled their signature sauces, say this would give fans of Indian cuisine a chance to create their own restaurant-quality curries in their own kitchens.
"We would obviously much prefer to cook for our customers in the restaurant, but the Cassia at Home range means we can give Kiwis an opportunity to cook, experiment and enjoy their favourite dishes wherever and whenever they like," he said.
The range - including korma, makhani and karahi sauces and two spice kits containing Sahrawat's favourite spice blends - will be available from tomorrow at Cassia and on the restaurant's website.
Sahrawat said the sauces are prepared in the same way that they are done at the restaurant.
Cassia was opened by Sahrawat and his wife Chand in 2014 with the aim of showcasing their heritage through contemporary cuisine.
The couple, who also own two other restaurants, Sidart and Sid at The French Cafe, are nominees for the Restaurant Association's first Resilience Awards, or RaRa.
The association said the Sahrawats worked relentlessly on their business to mitigate the financial impact from the virus pandemic and ensured they found a way to retain their 60 employees.
Diwali or Deepavali is a special time of celebration for Indian communities, as they share food, give gifts and light candles or diyas. The festival signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and the renewal of life.
For the last 18 years, Auckland has celebrated Diwali with a two-day central city festival featuring performances, workshops and stalls selling Indian food and delicacies.
Due to the pandemic this year, the celebrations have been made more localised with 100 smaller events and activities spread across 30 community venues from Warkworth to Papatoetoe.
Diwali is observed on the 15th day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar, and this year falls on Saturday, November 14.