Fried and piping hot str eet food can be extremely comforting during monsoon. Naturally then, an assortment of such snacks tops the list in Southern India, as in r est of India, albeit with minor v ariations in terms of spices and ingr edients.
Eating spicy food to perk up your taste buds, is universally the best way to uplift your mood during monsoon when the skies turn grey. Food lovers in the Southern states of India are no exception. Of course, most of the snacks are vegetarian made with rice, semolina and lentils, with oodles of green chillies, spices, curry leaves and other vegetables. However, in some places like Kerala, Hyderabad and parts of Chennai, a few non-vegetarian delicacies too are enjoyed during the rainy season.
Anurudh Khanna, Executive Chef, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru, opines, “Some of the mainstay snacks in South India’s food culture include green chilli, capsicum, banana and onion bhajjis, aloo bonda, plain and masala dal vadas, paniyaram, podi idli, banana chips, mosaru kodubale (yogurt-rice flour fritter rings) and chakkuli. These are typical savouries that people enjoy snacking on in the rains.”
Who can resist a crisp, bhajji during the rains? Slices of onions, potatoes, or other veggies, finely chopped green chillies, combined and dipped in chickpea batter or besan and deep-fried. This is undoubtedly the numero uno rain food across India and in this part of the country too, bhajjis are popular.
Known as pakoras in most parts of India, here these are referred to as bhajjis. The crunch of the veggies, along with the spices and piping hot temperature, is what appeals to the taste buds during a downpour. These are often eaten with sauce or chutneys for that extra zing to the palate. Of course, bhajjis are eaten with minor variations in each Southern state and there are some indigenous favourites too. Chef Gaurav Malhotra, Executive Chef, Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre, explains, “Hyderabadis indulge in Irani chai paired with their favourite mirchi bhajji and ulli bhajji (onion fritters).
In Chennai, bhajjis are a favourite. Typically, a plate of piping hot bhajjis includes an assortment of molaga (green chilli), raw banana, potato, capsicum, onion and cauliflower bhajjis. Wash these down with filter coffee and you have a winning combination.
No rainy day in Kerala is complete without the Milagai bhajji. The besan batter includes red chilly powder, turmeric powder, ginger-garlic paste, kasoori methi, asafoetida, baking soda and salt. The long green chilly peppers are slit and dipped into this batter. Hot bhajjis are served with coconut chutney.
Raw banana being a popular vegetable down South, bhajjis are prepared using this too. In Kerala, the banana fritters take on a new avatar. Here, bananas are sliced and dipped into a batter made of flour, egg, water, a dash of sugar and salt, and then deep fried to make crisp pazhampuris. The crispy and fluffy goli bhajji or Mangalore bhajji is a popular tea-time snack in Mangalore. Made with a batter comprising maida, rice flour, sour buttermilk, curry leaves, ginger and green chillies, these are unique as no vegetable is used but the batter is fried in dollops resulting in a soft and pillowy bhajji. It is the sour fermented flavour that lends it a unique taste. In Hyderabad, similar to this is the Punugulu. Chopped onions, coriander and yogurt are mixed into the dosa batter and deep-fried into soft and spongy pakoras or bhajjis.
Close to the bhajji is another deep-fried snack in the South, known as bonda. In this season, mashed potato is covered with gram flour or besan and fried in hot oil to make crisp bondas. These are usually relished with coconut chutney on Marina beach in Chennai and at several hole-inthe- wall eateries off the roads, as evening ‘tiffin’. In some places, the potatoes are replaced by yam and raw banana too.
The Mysore version of this bonda is equally a hit. Made of flour, spices and yogurt, this bonda does not contain potatoes.
The aloo bonda in Kerala gets spicier owing to the use of green chillies and pepper. People in Kerala also enjoy the Undan pori or a sweet bonda as a tea time snack. Made with rice flour, wheat flour, ripe bananas, jaggery and cardamom, these are irresistible once you get started.
Medu vada is by far the most popular vada for breakfast or an evening snack, in South India, but an assortment of other vadas too are eaten. Made of rice, lentils and rava, other ingredients are added to the vada batter for variations. Chana dal is added to the batter in Chennai along with onions and it is referred to as dal vadas. In Kerala, the vadas are spicier and are made with tur dal and termed as masala vadas.
In Bengaluru, one can enjoy the Maddur vada made from a batter of rice flour, rava and maida. Finely chopped onion, curry leaves and grated coconut are added for flavour and crunch.
Kara Kondakadalai Sundal, which means spicy hot chickpeas, is the ubiquitous mouth-watering snack eaten commonly in Tamil Nadu during monsoon. This quick-fix snack is easy to prepare and fun to eat, as the spices make the taste buds tingle. Tempered with spices, mustard seeds, raw mangoes and curry leaves, this one is difficult to stop at after a few handfuls. Easily available at road side vendor stalls as well as on beaches, sundal can be made of other lentils like black- eyed beans other than the popular chickpeas version.
Sujan Mukherjee, Executive Chef, Taj Coromandel Chennai, adds, “The Marina beach is a great destination to gorge on raw mango sundal and sutta cholam (split roasted corn on the cob with masala) during the monsoon.”
Vegetarian snacks may be more commonplace in South India, but there are also non-vegetarian delicacies like kari wada (minced lamb galletes) and mutton samosa eaten in Chennai.
In Kerala, naadan kozhi varuthathu or the fiery chicken marinated in spices and fried in coconut oil is popular. Fluffy, steamed idiyappam or noolappam with egg curry is another comforting dish and filling too.
Hyderabadis are known to relish their kebabs. Apart from that, lukhmi or meat-filled pockets and a bowl of haleem made of broken wheat, lentils, ginger and spices is preferred during the rains.
Some like it sweet
Putu mayam is a local Tamil dish made of rice flour noodles and served with sugar and coconut. It is a type of round, steamed rice flour noodles eaten with sweetened toppings like desiccated coconut or palm sugar.
Words: MINI RIBEIRO