September 6, 2010 at 12:27 am
There are so many Indian snacks, ranging from nuts and chips to candy and traditional Indian muruku, and then there are those which are great for a little bite at tea-time, although they are also great for an after dinner snack, too. I was buying muruku in Little India when I felt a little peckish and decided to get some of these snacks. It was very convenient, as there is a little stall right next to the muruku stall at the corner of King Street and Market Street.
The vendor has so many types of delectable snacks that I couldn’t eat one of everything, so I settle on three – the onion baji, potato samosa and masala vadai (also known as masarodei). The friendly vendor gives me a small bit of another type of snack but I don’t remember its name; it is onion fried with flour. It is crunchy but not hot-spicy, and a little bland.
I had eaten the onion baji before, and my sister likes it very much because she likes onions. The onion baji is sliced onions mixed with bean flour (possibly chickpea or dhall beans) and rice flour, spices and green onions and then fried. It is round, like a ball, nicely brown and crispy on the outside and soft and moist without being mushy inside. The taste of the onions browned during frying is aromatic and fragrant, while the onions on the inside complement the beans very well. The onion baji is not spicy.
The masala vadai can sometimes be spicy as some vendors add green chilli bits to the mixture of coarsely ground dhall beans, onions, spices and curry leaf before frying it. Its shape is round but with a bulging middle. Its texture is similar to that of a cookie, except that it is not as crumbly. It is very nice to bite into that firm nutty texture as the tastes come together perfectly in the mouth.
The samosa from this vendor is big, unlike the ones we sometimes see on buffet lines. The creamy texture of slightly spicy potato, onion, peas mixed with curry was the perfect foil to the skin, which was just right, being not too thick and chewy but thin and crispy.
There is another common and popular Indian snack – the vadai – and it looks just like a small doughnut, with a hole in the middle, minus the sugar. This snack is made of rice flour, spices and onions. Because it sometimes has a very subtle sour taste, my imagination tells me it contains some yoghurt. Vadai is good on its own, like all the other snacks mentioned above, but because it has a very mild flavour, it also goes very well with curry, coconut or mint chutney if you are eating it at a restaurant, and not buying it from a street vendor.
All these snacks taste best when slightly warm, but they also keep pretty well for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator and you can always pop them into the oven or oven toaster for a very tasty snack. I recommended them to Mariamalia, my friend from Costa Rica and she liked the onion baji well enough.
But, there is another Penang favourite that Mariamalia liked especially, and bought for her foreign friends staying in Penang. That, however, is another story, and I will keep it for another time.