The A to V of South Indian Snacks

March 25, 2011 1:41 pm by

If to you, the term “South Indian snacks” only means idlis, dosas, and vadas served with sweet sambar at Udipis, you’ve been missing out on a culinary treasurehouse. There’s heaps more to the cuisine as each of the four South Indian states boasts a distinct tradition of farsan and sweetmeats. In the old days, every family cooked its own stockpile of these snacks, and recipes were handed down from generation to generation. Now, they are mass produced and can be bought from South Indian speciality stores. A quick guide to what’s on offer:

This sweet dish made of rice flour, coconut and jaggery is round, soft and flat, and tastes quite like malpua. It is a traditional Tamil favourite and is considered an integral part of wedding feasts and festive spreads.

Badushas are flaky, golden brown orbs of deep-fried maida that look like cutlets, except that they are dipped in sugar syrup. Popular in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, badushas are only for those with a seriously sweet tooth.

A popular savoury snack in Tamil households, these tiny brown marbles are made of rice and urad dal batter, and seasoned with red chilli powder.

There are many South Indian variations of this sweet dish, including a chewy, sticky version made of wheat called godhi halwa in Kannada and godumbe in Tamil; a dark brown kind made with bananas; and also one loaded with dry fruits.

The jangiri is a lot like the jalebi, except it is a lot bigger, more orange and deeply steeped in sugar syrup. Also known as imartis.

“Bale” means bangle in Kannada, and kodbales look like miniature bangles that would only fit a baby’s wrist. They are tiny, crunchy doughnuts made by deep-frying rings of spiced rice flour batter flecked with coconut shavings.

Teatime in Tamil Nadu is incomplete without murukku, a tangled web of crisp, fried rice flour and urad dal dough. It is made using a mould and looks a lot like a noodle cake. Another popular variety of murukku has spiky edges and is called mullu thenkozhal.

Mysore pak
Legend goes that this sweetmeat originated in the kitchens of the Mysore Palace. What gives it its melt in the mouth texture is a combination of gram flour, sugar and lots and lots of ghee.

This sweet dish made in North Karnataka is a type of pastry. Traditionally, the thin white outer casing made of rice flour or maida and semolina is rolled out like a roomali roti and either baked or fried. It is then filled with powdered sugar and folded to resemble a samosa.

Appams are rice dumplings that can be both savoury and sweet. Neiyappams are sweet appams that are made of a combination of rice flour, jaggery and coconut and fried in ghee (“ney” is ghee in Tamil). They require a special mould that looks like an idli steamer and gives them their distinctive round shape.

Pori urundai
In Tamil, “pori” means puffed rice or kurmura while “urundai” means ball. Jaggery syrup is added to puffed rice, which is then shaped into little globes. Like meringues, pori laddoos are hard on the outside but airy and light within.

Ribbon pakavadam
As the name suggests, this savoury snack and wedding staple looks like a long, golden ribbon that is folded into several crisp loops. It is made of a gram and rice flour batter, which is passed through a special mould to give it a round shape, before it is dropped into hot oil.

Thattais look like golden-brown mini papads, but this Tamil snack has a firmer bite thanks to the Bengal gram that is added to the rice and urad flour dough before it is shaped into small diskettes and fried.

Like shankarpalas, tukdis are also diamond-shaped and made of maida. But while shankarpalas are dipped in sugar syrup, this Mangalorean speciality has a hint of heat thanks to the chilli powder mixed in the dough.

Milk is boiled, reduced and thickened until it reaches a rich, creamy texture, mixed with sugar and flavoured with cardamom. No Diwali spread in Tamil Nadu is complete without therattipal, also called palkova.

In Kerala, banana chips are fried in coconut oil and are called upperi. There are many kinds of upperi available in South Indian stores, including the common, bright-yellow savoury kind made of unripe bananas and the sweet kind that is coated with jaggery.

Vadams are spicy rice fritters that are the standard accompaniment to a meal of rasam and rice in any Tamil household. Usually, they are small, shrivelled circles made of a paste of soaked rice, sago and green chillies that has been dried under the sun. The fritters are fried in oil before they are served.

SEE ALSO: The Foodie’s Guide To Matunga East

Annapoorneshwari Stores 20D, Mahavir Building, near Matunga Post Office, Bhandarkar Road, Matunga (East).

A. Rama Nayak Udipi sweet stall Outside Matunga (East) railway station.

Cafe Madras 38-II, Circle House, King’s Circle, near Maheshwari Udyan, Matunga (East). Tel: 2401 4419.

Cafe Mysore Durlabh Nivas, Bhau Daji Road, Matunga (East). Tel: 2402 1230.

Gomati Mami Room No.16, Shankar Niwas, 53, Bhau Daji Cross Road, opposite Lions Pioneer School, Matunga (East). Tel: 2401 1446.