When we moved to Chennai née Madras in 1957, the first thing we did was to visit the beach. An integral part of the beach experience is sundal (dried peas snack), which is usually sold by mobile snack sellers who offer it along with many other traditional Tamil snacks. The speciality of the Madras beach sundal is that it is flavoured with coconut and unripe mango and served in a newspaper cone. As a child, the flavour was absolutely divine even with the inevitable sand from the beach. The green chillies made it so spicy that I used to cry into the sundal but still loved it 😀 I have now recreated the beach sundal but made the flavour a lot milder so that you can enjoy it in your living room minus the tears and the sand 🙂
During the lockdown, we are forced to stock up on vegetables that can be stored for some time, such as colocasia. That doesn’t mean we have to make only the typical colocasia preparations. I’d previously given recipes for Colocasia Fry and Bonda. I have now come up with this Colocasia Bajji recipe as people are longing for the fried delicacies they used to enjoy before the lockdown. Since the colocasia has a slight sweetish taste, I have used coriander and cumin powder in the batter to complement the flavour. The crisp coating and the soft interior make it a very interesting and scrumptious snack.
I first enjoyed these Vengaya Pakodas in Madurai in 1955, where there were known as Udhiri Pakodas (Crumbly Pakodas). We were served these when we visited my aunt Cynthia on weekends, which she bought from a nearby hotel. When we moved to Chennai, the Udhiri Pakoda had metamorphosed into Onion Pakoda and tasted even better. I tried for decades to replicate the recipe and finally arrived at my own method which gave the same flavour.
The potato bonda is one of the favourite snacks in South India. It is deep fried boiled and spiced up mashed potato coated with a batter of Bengal gram flour and rice flour. People in Tamil Nadu occasionally use colocasia instead of potato. Though it is never sold in shops, because of colocasia’s sticky and gooey texture, it is made and enjoyed in homes. I wanted to explore bonda without deep frying. Therefore I hit upon using my kuzhippaniaram mould. I also wanted to make it different from the traditional potato bonda. The spice combination that I have used is also different from the potato or colocasia bonda that is traditionally made. It is an interesting dish whose lovely crisp exterior, when bitten into, yields the sticky, gooey colocasia. My daughter and I love this.
Egg bonda is a snack made by deep frying boiled egg halves dipped in thick batter. Egg bonda is usually made with Bengal Gram flour batter and fried like a bhajji (vegetable fritter). I have tasted this in many places, but always felt that the Bengal Gram flour dominated the taste of egg. Therefore, I have created my own batter using a large amount of rice flour and a small amount of Bengal Gram flour and maida to help in the binding, which achieves a more balanced flavour. I have also added a green masala to the batter to enhance the flavour.
Kandhar Appam is a festive sweet preparation. Though many claim that it originated in Chettinad, it is very popular in Thirunelveli district also. It is usually prepared during Deepavalli, the festival of light and sound that is enjoyed by anyone with a sweet tooth 🙂 Though the homemade sweets have been replaced by the commercial North Indian sweets oozing ghee, kandhar appam is still the reigning Tamil sweet during the festive season.
Kuzhippaniaram is traditionally made with dosai batter. I came up with this recipe one morning when I wanted to make vermicelli uppuma but found I had only one cup of vermicelli. While wondering what to do, I had a brainwave: why not make a kuzhippaniaram with vermicelli? I then extended this concept to include other wheat products, creating this very unique combination of a South Indian dish made with wheat (which doesn’t grow here). This goes extremely well with Vengaya Sambar and Coconut Thuvaiyal.
Vazhaikkai (unripe bananas/plantains) are available round the year if you are lucky enough to live in South India :). The bananas are used in a variety of dishes as part of a dish like aviyal or kootanchoru, or as the primary ingredient in preparations like these cutlets. I have adapted this recipe from my grandmother’s vazhaikkai vadais. I prefer this as it is shallow fried with very little oil.
In Tamil Nadu we serve Ulundhu Vadai as an accompaniment to make a meal festive. On special occasions it is served with payasam (sweet dessert) or with ven pongal (a savoury rice dish) or idlis (steamed rice cakes). But even otherwise it makes a great all-time snack.
I don’t think you will find a single South Indian who will say No to a Masala Dosai. It is not only an all-time favourite, it is also a special treat. Masala dosai is relished for breakfast, lunch, tea, or dinner. It is not very spicy and therefore popular with many tourists as well. South Indian who live abroad make sure to have masala dosai whenever they visit home, and introducing their children to the masala dosai is a special ritual.