South Indian Savoury Snacks
From bondas to bhaji, a guide to Indian snacks for Deepavali
By Hiranmayii Awli Mohanan
Outside of India, Indian sweets tend to outshine the country’s more savoury offerings. While these ghee-laden, sugar-filled morsels are immensely popular world over, there is a whole world of crispy, fried savoury snacks that remain undiscovered. Indians love their savoury treats, and almost every household has their own specialties that they prepare for festivals like Deepavali.
Immensely popular, vadais are the Indian rendition of doughnuts, served for breakfast or as a snack. They’re made by grinding pre-soaked urad dal with salt and asafoetida, then adding finely chopped green chillies, ginger, cilantro, onions as well as cumin. The resulting batter is quickly shaped into rings and fried in hot oil, then served with green chutney or sambar.
If you’ve never eaten hot, fresh-off-the-stove pakora on a cold rainy day along with some masala chai to wash it all down, you’re missing out. Pakora or pakoda is a fritter of sorts typically made with onions, although in India, there are seemingly infinite versions including potato (aloo), spinach (palak) and paneer pakora. A batter is made from besan flour, turmeric, chilli powder, masala powder, salt and chopped curry leaves. Then finely sliced onion is added, along with enough water to thicken the mixture. You then deep fry it in oil and serve hot, broken into bite-sized pieces.
Madras mixture is a tasty collection of various delectable treats. Known colloquially in India as micchar, Madras mixture often contains kara sev, boondi, ompodi, roasted peanuts, flattened rice flakes, roasted chana dal, almonds and cashews. Although it is primarily made during Deepavali, it is also enjoyed as a snack year-round, typically alongside a cup of tea. It can be quite an endeavour to gather all the components to make your own, so you can scout for these mixtures in Brickfields.
Murukku is a staple dish for Deepavali and a highly popular snack in South India. Its moniker is derived from the Tamil word for ‘twisted’, referring to its spiral form. It is typically made from rice flour and urad dal flour. The flours are mixed with salt, chilli powder, asafoetida and sesame seeds. Water is added to form a stiff dough, which is then shaped into spiral shapes by hand or extruded using a murukku mould. Finally, the seasoned spirals are fried in hot oil.
Like murukku, omapodi or ompodi is typically made for Deepavali. The dough for this snack consists of gram flour, rice flour, butter, ajwain or carom seeds and salt. Throw in a dash of turmeric to set it apart. Water is added until the dough becomes soft and sticky, then it’s passed through the omapodi press into hot oil.
Our personal favourite, paniyaram is also called kuzhi paniyaram (which refers to the special pan that is used to make it). Black lentils are paired with rice to make the batter, which is very similar to the one used for idlis and dosas, then left to ferment. When the batter is ready, it’s ladled into the various indentations in the paniyaram pan and cooked until golden brown. Paniyarams are typically served with coconut chutney or sambar.
Samosas are a great tea time treats. These are delicious little morsels of pastry wrapped around assorted fillings such as spiced potatoes, minced meat, onions, peas, or lentils. A soft, pliable dough is made from all-purpose flour, salt, ghee and a little water, then rolled out into small circles before being stuffed and shaped by hand into the familiar triangles. After a quick turn in hot oil, these are served with mint chutney.