03 Nov 2021
Learn about the many sweet and salty snacks commonly devoured during the festive season. Illustrations by Veshalini Naidu.
Just like most other festivals in Malaysia, Deepavali is a time of plentiful eating. Mutton and ghee rice spill onto tables and plates as day and night blur into each other. But in between the spicy meats and mandatory naps are jars of murukku, cookies, and snacks. These snacks are the hallmarks of Deepavali in many South Indian homes in Malaysia—joyous fillers amid the cacophony.
Mullu murukkuPerhaps the most recognisable snack on Deepavali tables is murukku, of which tens of varieties exist. Mullu murukku are exceedingly crisp and satisfying, sporting characteristic grooves for an interesting textural experience. Its spiral shape is created using a murukku mould.
These decadent ghee balls have a distinct sweet-savoury fragrance from the combination of roasted moong dal, cardamom, and sugar. Each ball goes a long way, so it’s best you savour each powdery, sugary bite slowly, perhaps with a cup of chai alongside.
These thin and twisty murukku are made with chickpea flour and a hint of chilli powder to yield a striking red hue. To create its attractive shape, dough is inserted into a murukku mould and piped as a nest directly into hot oil. Once cool, the murukku is broken into shards. Sometimes, they are studded with sesame seeds for a slight nuttiness.
Compared to mullu murukku, achu murukku is mildly sweet from the addition of coconut milk in its thin batter. Also known as kuih ros, its pretty shape is created from the achu mould and a deft hand. A good achu murukku should be lightly crisp and thin, and should shatter easily when bitten into.
Roasted green peas
You might recognise this is a common bar snack, popular among the ‘uncles’. It’s hard to imagine that these crunchy morsels are derived from fresh green peas, but they are. They are simple to prepare at home too—simply thaw and pat dry frozen peas, toss in oil, salt, and your favourite spice blend, and roast for an hour or until they’re completely dry and crisp.
These neon-hued sweets can probably be seen from space. Stained with food colouring and tooth-achingly sweet, this style of candy may be unashamedly kitsch but it plays a role among the more traditional snacks. You do you, coconut candy.
These deep-fried rings get their chestnut hue from jaggery, a type of cane sugar popularly used in South Asia. Adhirasam may look unassuming, but the craft of making these sweet, dense treats is a tricky one as each labour-intensive step involves precision and care. If you know someone in your life who is skilled at making these, keep them close.
The clue is in its name. This murukku is a mixture of exceedingly delicious things prepared separately and combined for a delight of colours and textures. The main ingredient is sev or omapodi, deep-fried threads of chickpea flour. The sev is then combined with fried peanuts, roasted gram dal, crunchy green peas, and curry leaves. A salty surprise in each bite.
The many varieties of payasam have a special place during Deepavali. Popular among South Indians is rice payasam, a luscious custard-like mixture made with jaggery, cardamom and ghee, with roasted cashews folded through for crunch.
These shell-shaped titbits can be made savoury or sweet. The savoury version, sometimes known as kuih siput, is tinged orange from curry powder and is tossed with curry leaves for a smoky fragrance. The underrated and harder-to-find sweet version, however, is tossed in icing sugar fresh from the fryer and is the pinnacle of the sweet-salty alchemy we love so much.
Many versions of these melt-in-the-mouth biscuits exist—some are made with semolina flour, some with butter or oil, some with or without egg. Our favourite kind is rich from ghee, crumbly from icing sugar, and a pale shade of cream. It’s unclear why the red dot is a common embellishment to these dainty biscuits, but they look somewhat incomplete without them.
Perhaps our country’s most prized snack—the butter cake—transcends cultures. These cakes, usually cut into small squares or rectangles for each guest to easily pop into their mouths, are best made with pure butter (hint: a favourite among Malaysian households is the SCS brand). Dinesh’s version is some of the richest and most luxurious we’ve tried.
Meat-free but diverse
Cook it low and slow
Braised meat in spicy-sweet masala