LINKS
2018-06-06 / Featured / Taste

A Taste of India: Festival celebrates flavor and fanfare

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER

Two performers engage in Bharatanatyam, a classical dance that originates from South India. AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY Two performers engage in Bharatanatyam, a classical dance that originates from South India. AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY While your GPS might say you’re in Chester when you visit the Taste of India festival this weekend, the sights, smells and flavors there could lead you to believe otherwise.

For the 15th year running, the nonprofit Cultural Center of India off Iron Bridge Road will celebrate the traditions of the world’s second most populous country this Saturday and Sunday.

“It’s all about promoting Indian culture,” says Shirish Shah, who’s splitting publicity duties for the festival with his wife, Geeta. The free festival will include roughly 15 food vendors, eight shopping vendors and other assorted booths. For many, the food is the highlight of the festival, with traditional Indian dishes offered at a fraction of the cost you’ll find at restaurants.

A woman makes dosas, a crepe-like dish made of rice, black lentil and fermented batter. AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY A woman makes dosas, a crepe-like dish made of rice, black lentil and fermented batter. AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY Poojaa Shah Talwar, vice president of the cultural center and cultural program director, says the festival is trying to represent different areas of India through cuisine. Rajasthan, a state located in northwest India, will be embodied through a spicy stuffed pastry called kachori. South India will be represented by dosas, a crepe-like food made of rice, black lentil and fermented batter. Other standouts include samosas, fried savory dumplings filled with spiced vegetables; vada pao, a deep-fried potato dumpling with spicy chutney served in a bread bun; and chole bhature, spiced chickpeas served with Indian puffed bread. The festival will also serve offerings more familiar to westerners, such as chicken masala, Tandoori chicken and a variety of curries.

AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY “[The] lamb curry is very, very popular, because lamb is hard to find in a normal restaurant,” says Shah.

To drink, the festival will offer fresh-made sugar cane juice, the yogurt-based drink lassi, and chai tea from Darjeeling and Assam. The festival will also have a booth selling Kingfisher lager, India’s best-selling beer. Desserts will include Indian pastries, ice cream and gulab jamun, balls of flour and evaporated milk soaked in sweet syrup.

A cultural program will take place throughout the event, featuring Indian dance and music. This year’s theme is Bollywood, highlighting India’s Hindi-language film industry. Indian cinema is the world’s largest film industry in terms of number of films produced and tickets sold, and nearly every Bollywood film incorporates song and dance. In competition, teams will pull from both classic and modern Bollywood styles for their performances.

“It’s so upbeat,” says Geeta Shah of the performances. “People come just to see the show.”

AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY AMAR TALWAR PHOTOGRAPHY In addition to food, festival attendees can shop an array of modern and traditional Indian clothing fashions, including sarees, kurtis and footwear. Jewelry and art will be for sale, and henna tattooing, a temporary body art made from the dye of a plant, will also be offered.

“There’s a lot of shopping, there’s a lot of traditional items for sale,” Talwar says. “A lot of vendors come from out of town.”

To hear the festival’s promoters tell it, visiting Taste of India is a trip all to itself.

“Get a view of India without going in a plane,” says Geeta Shah. “It’s a free ticket all the way.” ¦

Taste of India takes place June 9 and 10, 12:30-8:30 p.m., at the Cultural Center of India, 6641 Ironbridge Parkway, Chester. Admission is free.

Return to top