With taste buds suffering from a sugar overload, savoury snacks are often a welcome sight during Diwali in India and in the Southern states too. There are a plethora of home-made options to choose from.
Diwali in Southern India is celebrated on Chauturdashi or the 14th day when Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
The auspicious day denotes the triumph of good over evil. Hindus wake up way before dawn, as early as 4am, have a fragrant oil bath and wear new clothes. They light lamps all around the house and draw elaborate kolam (rangoli) at the entrance of their homes. A special puja with offerings to Lord Krishna or Lord Vishnu, is performed and after bursting crackers, several delicacies, both sweet and savoury are enjoyed as a family.
Apart from sweets like okkarai, badusha and rava kesari, which are an intrinsic part of the Diwali festivities, to give the taste buds a relief, several dry savoury snacks are eaten. Ribbon pakodas, thattai, murukku and mixtures are laid out on every table on Diwali day for family and friends to munch upon. With minor variations, most of the snacks in Southern India are similar.
Aruna Panangipally, a food blogger and expert cook, says, “Rice flour, besan, and sometimes, maida are the key base ingredients we use for our snacks. Flavouring could be curry leaves, chilli powder, sesame seeds and carom seeds.”
Naren Thimmaiah, executive chef, The Gateway Hotel – Residency Road, Bangalore, says, “Since rice is one of the major staples in Karnataka, you will find it being used abundantly in various forms, be it rice flour, puffed rice or flattened rice. Basic spices like chilli powder or green chilli finds prime place among the key ingredients. Cumin, carom seeds and saunf are also used generously. Finally, there are fried curry leaves to give you a pleasant aroma.”
No Diwali is complete without the crunchy and well-spiced murukku or chaklis which are twisted. Made from rice flour and lentils, it comes in several variants. Ideally, rice is soaked for three hours before running it through a wet grinder. Roasted gram powder is sieved and added along with salt, jeera, and a pinch of asafoetida and of course chillies. Different shapes can be imparted with the use of the murukku maker. These are then deep fried and can be stored for months.
Pottukadalai murukku, made with idli rice and roasted gram flour, is another common variety. Mannapparai murukku, butter murukku, achu murukku and seepu murukku are some of the other variants popular in Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala, thenkuzhal and kai murukku or the hand-made ones are common varieties. The thenkuzhal murukku can be made with idiyappam flour too. Chegodilu a kind of ringshaped murukku, is a musthave in Andhra Pradesh and Paalakaayalu or rice balls are also popular.
In Telangana, sakinalu, made of rice and sesame seeds, devoid of spices, is a part of the festivities.
Thattai is another crisp snack synonymous with Diwali. Traditionally made in Brahmin households in the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu, it has now gained popularity all over South India. Made with rice flour, maida, roasted gram and peanuts, these flat disc-like crispies are hugely popular across Southern India. The thattai with pepper is known as milagu thattai. In Karnataka too these are prepared for Diwali and known as nippattu. These are comparatively thicker and have peanuts and maida in it, whereas, Tamil Nadu’s thattai and chekkalu in Andhra Pradesh are thin and light with little peanuts or sometimes no peanuts at all.
Some families in Tamil Nadu, even make kara kozhukatai or savoury dumplings made of rice flour and stuffed with urad dal and other spices.
Who can resist a plateful of pakodas made of besan or gram flour along with other ingredients on Diwali? Ribbon pakodas are synonymous with celebrations in Southern India. In addition to rice flour, besan is added to the dough for these pakodas, apart from hot oil, to give the pakodas a crispness. In Kerala, these are referred to as pakkavadas. Moong dal pakodas are another must-have on Diwali in Tamil Nadu. They are usually served with manjal or turmeric root chutney.
Oma podi or ajwain flavoured sev is a treat for the taste buds in Diwali amidst a plethora of sweets. This is a fine and crispy sev. Slightly different is the garlic karasev or poondu karasev, which is a thick besan sev with a distinct garlic flavour.
The South Indian mixture is another delectable treat in Diwali, where sometimes, oma podi is one of the many constituents and other ingredients such as boondi, peanuts, chivda and peas are added.
In Karnataka, avarekalu mixture is a tea-time snack in Diwali, prepared using deep-fried avarekalu or hyacinth beans. Thick poha, fried gram, peanut and spice powders are the other ingredients in this mixture.
Another basic but simple deepfried snack which is munched upon is Kara Boondi made with besan and salt, chilli powder. Coconut and curry leaves are sometimes added.
Goli baje, onion bondas, upma in Tamil Nadu, parawppu vadai in Kerala, same or millet dosa in Karnataka, are some other snacks served on Diwali but are fres As Chef Thimmaiah says, “Diwali is the time for indulgence and these snacks taste even better amidst the countless varieties of sweets made during Diwali. Known purely for their taste, crispness and shelf life, most of these savoury snacks are similar with minor variations across South India.”
Words: MINI RIBEIRO