Holi 2024: 5 Indian Chefs Share Nostalgic Gujiya Tales

Imagine your mother, aunt, grandmother, sitting on the floor a day or two before Holi. One would roll the dough, one would fill the gujiya, and the creative one (or the one with the best hand-eye coordination) would seal them with artistic designs. You, as the young blood, would be tasked to rest the gujiya under covers, and others in the house would get involved in deep frying the khoya-based dish. You can tweak a few details but you will agree that making of gujiya at home around Holi is a collective task that brings family members together to kick start Holi celebrations a couple of days in advance. 

Video Credit: Your Food Lab/ YouTube

Only a few days left for Holi, to be celebrated on March 25, 2024, it’s a mayhem in Indian households, especially kitchens. People are busy making delicious delicacies like namak pare, pua, kanji vada, thandai, and puran poli. Among all, gujiya is an integral part of the festival of colours.  Deep-fried all-purpose flour moulds are filled with sweet khoya or mawa filling to embark your stomach on the journey to attain nirvana with every bite.

Slurrp spoke to five Indian chefs who shared their gujiya tales that will definitely strike a chord with you. Here is what they shared.

Special Gujiya Are Made In Homes For Special Guests

Chef Sumit Kumar, corporate chef at Leisure Hotels Group, shared, “Being the youngest in the family, I was favourite of my grandmother. She allowed me to be part of the kitchen brigade during sweets and food preparation which shaped my mind to be a chef later in life.”

He added that family members would come together to make around 300-400 gujiyas. Chef Sumit Kumar said, “We were not allowed to taste any until we were finished with the Holika Dahan puja.”

In his household, one of the traditions included filling the last 25-30 pieces of gujiya with bhang, cannabis leaves. Chef Sumit Kumar shared, “These special filling sweets were served to close friends of my grandfather visiting him to wish Holi. They loved the taste without realising what was coming in the next half an hour. Once Bhang started affecting their brain, they all started laughing and there was a laugh riot until they got tired and fell asleep on the floor, waking up the next day.” 

Gujiya Symbolises A Fulfilling Life

Sanjay Rawat, Executive Chef, Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel, shared that the process of making gujiya at his home would include reliving old memories and laughing until stomachs hurt. He added, “Through this process, my mother shared with me the deeper significance of gujiya in our lives. She explained how it symbolises a fulfilling life and a united family, emphasising the importance of getting the sweetness and texture just right.”

Speaking about the importance of sealed gujiya, Chef Sanjay Rawat shared an old Hindi proverb, "Jo gujiya foote baar-baar kadhaiya mien, Matlab jaano hue kalhay ghar angan mein (If the seal of gujiya opens in kadhai, it will invite disputes at home."

He said that in recent times, people have experimented with gujiya and have come up with healthier options. For example, now people bake instead of deep frying. They use healthy alternatives to all-purpose flour. 

Gujiya Adds Excitement In The House

Chef Mani Mohan Pathak, executive chef, Pilibhit House, Haridwar, connected with Slurrp and shared his memory. “Holi meant family get together during my childhood days, and at the time of festive offs, we used to visit our village. I remember waking up early, filled with excitement, Running around with friends, armed with pichkaris (water guns) and gulal (coloured powder), each splash of colour adding to the joy of the day. There was something magical about those moments.”

His grandmother used to make gujiya at home using wheat flour and jau (barley seeds) that she used to grind at home on jata stone. “She used to mix it with little maida and then stuffing it with seasonal jaggery, coconut and cardamom. My grandmother always deep-fried gujiya in ghee for its authentic taste,” added Chef Mani Mohan Pathak.

Gujiya Brings Family Together

While sharing his nostalgic tale associated with making of gujiya at home for Holi, Chef Dheeraj Mathur, cluster executive chef, Radisson Blu Kaushambi, Delhi NCR, said, “Before Holi, my mum, younger sibling, and I would sit together to make at least 100 gujiyas. There's nothing quite like the memories of gujiya with mom during our childhood. It was a time when we learned more than just how to make a meal, but also the value of spending time together and the joy of creating something from scratch.”

Chef Dheeraj Mathur’s mother would teach him how to measure ingredients for kneading the dough and making lip-smacking sweet khoya filling. “There was always a lot of laughter and learning as we cooked together,” he added. When the chef used to cook with his mother, she would share her childhood stories with him. He said, “Those stories added a connection to our time together in the kitchen.”

His mother used to tell him, “Gujiya signifies a fulfilling life. A nice and fluffy gujiya with a right note of sugar or ‘bhura’ is important as it also signifies a united family.”

Gujiya Keeps Traditions Alive

Sharing nostalgic tales of gujiya making at home with Slurrp, Chef Ishijyot Surri, executive chef at SJI Hospitality and Foods Pvt. Ltd, said, "The kitchen would come alive with the enticing aromas of roasted khoya, nuts, and cardamom, as we eagerly awaited the perfect golden crisp of the gujiyas. We would gather around the dining table, lovingly shaping the dough, filling it with the delectable mixture, and meticulously crimping the edges."

Remembering his childhood and in a strive to keep memories of his grandmother alive, Chef Ishijyot Suri always ensures to source the finest ingredients, where khoya boasts rich texture, and nuts are toasted to perfection.

He added, "In my rendition of gujiyas, you will discover the same unwavering attention to detail, the same comforting warmth, and the essence of tradition that resonated with me as a child. Each bite is a reminder not only of the sheer sweetness experienced but also a journey back to those cherished memories of family, love, and the spirit of celebration."