We’re only 2 weeks away from Deepavali bright and colourful festival us Malaysians have the luxury to celebrate with our Indian neighbours. As fellow Malaysians, we also share the similarity of last-minute dress, deco and treat preparations. Time is not yet of the essence for us unless it’s 2 to 3 days before the actual celebration, when we’ll see Little India and Jalan Masjid India as good as closed and bustling with energy. Sometimes with unruly kids lighting up a firecracker or two. What fun would we have without them…
What makes Deepavali exciting is the lights and colours that brighten up our roads, malls and tv commercials. Not to mention how radio stations tastefully slip in the Indian accent to remind us of our swaggy Malaysian race (Unfortunately, Petronas hasn’t launched their 2019 ad as of writing).
For the rest of us Malaysians, Deepavali draws us in by attacking our sense of smell. We’ll give chicken and mutton to the Malays (rendang for days), and seafood to the Chinese (DUH) but we must credit Indians for the assortment of snacks the dear aunties and Pattis park on our laps with every open house visit. There’s no way you’re leaving without so much as a murukku and ney orende.
Forgive us writers. Unlike journalists, we would gladly skip the spelling test for the taste test; Which is why we are diving right into famous Deepavali treats straight from Patti’s house!
1. Shakkar Pare
The first featured sweet is a sugar coated keropok-like treat. Tough to get the dough spot on but absolutely addictive when you get it right. Indian sweets tend to have an anonymous origin story as in the case of shakkar pare or shakapara, Pakistanis, Punjabis and Northern Indians have their variant of shapes and sizes but the idea is the essentially the same- sugar-coated keropok pastry. The trick is to fry it on low heat first and then on medium to achieve the perfect crisp.
2. Pani Puri
A famous snack on the streets of India and yet we’ve only found one small vendor in Brickfields to sample these delicious versatile bowls of sensory stimulants. Pani puri is a deep fried hollow pastry balls which are cracked on the top and filled with watery filling that is sour and spicy. The locals tend to add sweet chutney, coriander and chickpeas for added texture and flavour balancing.
3. Ulli Vada
You could pop over to the nearest Indian shop and get your fix of vadas. Even the local pasar malam should have a stall that sells the doughnut vada and dal vada alongside the tapioca ball and karipap. However, Ulli Vadas are quite a rare find so here’s how you make them for your guests this Deepavali.
4. Thayir Vada
Before a heavy south indian meal, curd vadai/dahi vada/thayir vada/tairu vadai is served as a starter. It’s a pairing of spicy yogurt and softened deep-fried vadai that sets up the tummy for a good 4 hours of effective digestion.
We started with a sweet snack and it only seems poetic and in line with the Indian meal chronology to end with one too. Kesari has a lovely texture, a “jelly-cake being the only term that comes to mind. This dessert is usually paired with raisins or any preferred dried fruit and cashew nuts and served in slices, although it’s classified as a pudding. What an enigma. Different Indian casts prepare them to turn out either yellow or orange but the taste is very similar. Some also tweak the recipe to substitute semolina flour for sago and, well, my tongue is sweating.
The above are only some of the many Indian delicacies but instead of featuring the ones we’re so used to in Malaysia, we enjoyed virtually exploring authentic Indian flavours and hope to inspire either our fellow Indians or visiting friends with creative snacks to offer. Wishing all a fun and delicious festive preparations!