Preparing for Diwali at San Francisco’s Besharam

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“Nobody is as white-haired as me, nobody is older as me” says Chef Heena Patel, who opened her first restaurant, Besharam, later in life. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

“When you grow something, there is always a limitation of the space, the weather. But coming here, the variety of what I saw. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m in a paradise,’” says chef Heena Patel of immigrating from western India to the Bay Area. 

She is now using the varieties of potatoes and leafy greens that she discovered at Besharam, her San Francisco restaurant that serves Gujarati cuisine. The name translates to “shameless,” and, Patel says, “reflects the bold and unedited version of me,” giving her the freedom to cook as she pleases.

As she prepares for Diwali, the five-day festival of light, the chef reminiscences of her childhood celebrations and feasts. She is preparing a menu of Diwali dishes at the restaurant, including meetho handvo, a dish with crushed lentils, strawberries, and nutmeg.

Meetho Handvo
Courtesy of Heena Patel, Besharam in San Francisco


Meetho handvo, a sweet Indian dessert consisting of crushed lentils. Chef Heena Patel is serving the dish as part of her Diwali menu at Besharam. Photo courtesy of Besharam.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup corn flour
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp eno (sweet bi carbonate soda)
  • 4 tbsp castor sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 tbsp water or as needed
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp minced serrano chili paste
  • 1 tsp ginger juice
  • 1 tsp minced garlic paste
  • 1 cup small cubed Granny Smith apple
  • 1 cup strawberries cut halved
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 spring fried curry leaves
  • 1 tsp sweet coconut snowflakes

Directions

-Combine cornmeal, corn flour, all-purpose flour in a large bowl.

-Add salt, sugar, turmeric powder, cubed apple, chilies, ginger, garlic paste.

-Add water to mix all well. Rest mixture for 15 minutes.

-Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325°F.

-Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease paper with oil.

-Add lemon juice and eno to the handvo batter. Mix slowly. Add water if it's too thick, taking care to not not disturb the air bubbles while mixing. Pour batter into a greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until a metal skewer comes out clean. Leave out to cool completely.

-Once the handvo cake is cooled, slowly turn upside down and remove parchment paper. Cut the cake into 2” squares.

-Meanwhile prepare strawberries. Add sugar and lemon juice and toss to combine. Let sit at room temp and toss and stir frequently.

-Place one square piece of handvo in the center of the serving dish. Sprinkle sesame seeds and crushed curry leaves. Drizzle top with EVOO and top with fresh strawberries.


In Hindi, Besharam translates to “shameless” and is the name of Heena Patel’s Gujarati restaurant in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Photo by Eric Wolfinger.

Credits

Host:

Evan Kleiman