Celebrate Diwali with Saffron Chef Ajay Walia’s Sliders

Bombay sliders at Saffron restaurant, Burlingame and San Carlos
Bombay sliders at Saffron restaurant, Burlingame and San Carlos; photo credit Ani Clifford

Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, is at once a harvest festival, and a celebration of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. Sounds like something the world needs right now!

Other religious groups celebrate, Diwali including Jains and Sikhs, a religion and philosophy founded in the Punjab region of India. The festivities typically last five days, peaking on the third day to coincide with the darkest day of the moon cycle (it is the night before the new moon). Or, if you are following the Hindu calendar, it is the 15th day of the month Karitka. In 2023, the darkest day corresponds to Sunday, November 12.

At Saffron restaurants in Burlingame and San Carlos, chef Ajay Walia is serving his usual menu of street food favorites (onion bhaji, kale pakoras), dosa, uttapam, and larger plates of pindi channa and Malabar shrimp curry.

Sweet snacks – mithai – are a signature of the food eaten to honor the celebration. Walia offers some favorites like gulab jamun and kheer (rice pudding) on the regular menu. A special dessert to honor the light will also be available but only on November 12.

Can’t make it to the restaurant that night? Chef Walia shared his vegetarian sliders recipe, perfect for those keen to discover the flavor of the holiday at home.

“Sliders are a common street food in India, primarily in Bombay. I love this dish because it satisfies the street food palate by combining sweet, tangy, and a bit of spice all in one bite.”  – Chef Ajay Walia


Bombay Sliders

Courtesy of Ajay Walia

Makes 25-35 patties, depending on size

Note: Patties can be refrigerated or frozen, unbattered, for later use. Keep them on a plate, tightly wrapped, to prevent freezer burn. The chutneys can be made in advance and stored for

up to five days. If you don’t wish to make them yourself, you can use pre-made chutney.

Patty ingredients

  • 1 kg potatoes
  • 50 ml oil
  • 25 g chopped garlic
  • 100 g chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp chile powder
  • 2 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 50 g chopped cauliflower, chopped
  • 50 g chopped green beans, chopped
  • 1 bunch chopped coriander leaves

Batter ingredients

  • 16 oz basan (gram) flour
  • 6 oz rice flour
  • 2 pinches turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Water

Slider ingredients

  • Two dozen small, sweet rolls
  • Gunpowder spice
  • Pickled onions and jalapenos
  • Tamarind chutney
  • Mint chutney


To make the batter

● Combine flour and spices in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then add water, little by little, to make the consistency of a batter. Set aside.

To make the patties

  • Boil potatoes until soft. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, add oil, cumin seeds and garlic. Saute until golden brown. Add onion and saute well.
  • Add all of the spices. Saute well. Add salt.
  • Add the cauliflower and green beans; cook until soft.
  • Peel the potatoes and smash them. Add coriander leaves and seasoned vegetables. Mix together.
  • Form 1 1/2″ patties.
  • Coat patties in batter.
  • Fry patties over medium heat until the coating batter turns golden brown and looks cooked.

As the sliders are frying, prepare the rolls. Slice them lengthwise, then sprinkle gunpowder on the inside of each half. Toast the rolls in a pan with ghee or butter for added spice and crunch.

Add pickled onions and jalapenos, a spoonful of tamarind chutney and a spoonful of mint chutney. Serve immediately.

Mint chutney

  • 16 oz (2 bunches) mint leaves
  • 8 oz (1 bunch) cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • Pinch of black salt*
  • Water

Blend all of the ingredients to make a fine paste. *Black salt adds any extra flavor dimension that regular salt doesn’t.

Tamarind chutney

  • 24 oz tamarind, fresh pods
  • 16 oz brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chai masala
  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • Water

In a bowl, make tamarind juice, including pulp. Discard seeds. Boil and reduce until a chunky consistency.

Pickled onions and jalapenos

  • 8 oz (1 small) red onion, sliced
  • 8 oz (6 – 8 medium) jalapeno, cut in strips
  • 1 tsp whole garam masala
  • 30 oz water
  • 6 oz red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp sugar

● Put onion and jalapeno in a large, heat-proof bowl.

● In a pot, bring water, vinegar, garam masala and sugar to a boil.

● Pour hot mixture into bowl.

● Cover and set aside for at least an hour