Executive sous chef Vinon Yergu at Kempinski Hotel, Mall of the Emirates
From: Hyderabad, India.
In Dubai: 14 years.
What does Diwali mean to you?
Diwali is the Festival of Light and a social, family affair. It signifies an atmosphere of love, brightness and bonding of families. Spending time with friends and family, while enjoying authentic and traditional food, is the perfect recipe for Diwali.
How is celebrating in Dubai different from celebrating in India?
For me, Diwali in Dubai is still very special. First thing in the morning, I visit the temple in Bur Dubai. Then I send good wishes to my family and friends back home in India, as well as those here in Dubai. I also distribute sweets to my close friends, relatives and colleagues.
What sort of dishes do you eat during Diwali?
Lots of sweets and snacks are eaten for Diwali, and many of them are made more elaborate for the occasion, using ingredients such as saffron, rose, pandan leaf, as well as silver or gold leaf as a decoration. Laddu (ball-shaped sweets), sweet vermicelli and sweet chutney are some of the most popular sweet items, usually eaten with masala tea after the meal.
How will you be celebrating?
My family are back at home in India, so I will celebrate Diwali with those friends and relatives who live in Dubai. For me, celebrating Diwali includes eating lots of vegetable dishes and sweets. During Diwali, Hindus are not supposed to eat any non-vegetarian food, so the best thing for me is to eat in a proper vegetarian restaurant, which is quite hard to find in Dubai. Mahec at Le Méridien Dubai in Garhoud is one of my favourites: to me it is a proper Indian restaurant, and they always offer a good variety of vegetarian dishes on festive occasions. I also eat a lot of special sweets, because the selection is so varied. Some of my favourites include gulab jamun, gajar ka halwa, besan ke ladoo, karanji (a Diwali sweet which can be sweet or salty) and jalebis (hollow swirls of dough served hot).