It’s raining snacks!

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Come rains, and all we can think of is piping hot tea, served with spicy pakoras, bhajias and vadas. Momos, noodles, sandwiches and bhels can’t be left too far behind either, says Anuradha Rajan, making us drool in anticipation.

Just thinking about snacks on a rainy evening has made me take two trips to the kitchen and retreat with the same speed after checking the ambient temperature. The second time I got myself a Marie biscuit before I left. So is it the fall in temperature that makes one want to eat hot and spicy stuff? Why doesn’t this phenomenon happen when winter does a cameo in Mumbai? I guess, the rain kind of makes you home bound and thus, food lore is created.

Snacks have to be accompanied by chai (tea) which is preferred over coffee or other beverages. Varieties of tea are now available, with masala chai being the top favourite. But I personally would like to spice it down and have a lighter tea, even maybe a mint or lemon tea without milk. These would also help in the digestion of the deep fried goodies that are being consumed with it.

Snacks with fillings
Samosas are an all-time favourite, and the fillings vary from the much loved ‘aloo’ (potato) to mutton. With the invention of the frozen samosa patti or a kind of shortcrust pastry strips, it’s very easy to make it at home. Nowadays, we have spinach and cheese or mashed peas as samosa fillings, but the monsoon demands just a bit of indulgence. So the Punjabi samosa it is. No need to bother with the chutneys, just have it with a hot and sweet tomato ketchup.

Bread pakora is a favourite in the northern parts of the country. They are sold out by mid-morning at college canteens in Delhi. With a potato filling or just plain, dipped in a gram flour batter and deep fried, it is indeed a ‘slice’ of heaven. When making at home, instead of doing neat wedges or squares, one can just crumble the bread slices into the batter and fry them as bread bhajias. This can be eaten with a tangy tamarind chutney or just ketchup.

Tea, pakora, samosa; the classic monsoon treats!

Tea, pakora, samosa; the classic monsoon treats!

Memories of train journeys through Kerala brings to mind two railway station and street side staples, the pazham pori (banana fritters) and parippu vada (lentil/dal fritters). The pazham pori is ideally made with the Kerala plantains (nendra pazham), as they are firmer and easier to batter fry. In this case, the batter is all-purpose flour and this is best eaten as soon as it’s prepared, as otherwise it becomes a bit soggy. As kids, my brother and I hated bananas, but we loved the outer jacket of the fritter and we would sneakily throw the banana slice away!
 
The parippu vadas are made with chana dal and is one of the snacks you can’t just go to the kitchen and prepare, as the dal should ideally soak in water for about three hours. It’s one of the crunchiest snacks from South India due to the coarse grinding of the dal, so watch out for those dental fillings and caps! The greatest fun is biting into a piece of green chilli in the vada and trying to soothe your taste buds with a quick sip of tea. Doesn’t help, but worth the experience! A lighter form of the parippu vada would be by using moong dal instead of chana dal, and it wouldn’t need much soaking time either. 

Pakoras are one of the most friendly rainy day or any day snack. Mix gram flour batter with some asafoetida (hing), turmeric, chilli powder and salt and you can dip whatever catches your fancy or is available, and deep fry. From vegetables like spinach, onion, cauliflower, capsicum, chillies, cabbage and potatoes, to paneer, anything is welcome on a wet gloomy day. If you crave more potatoes, we have the batata vada, Mumbai street style, and the bonda. Both would require the effort of cooking and mashing the potatoes and the seasoning according to what your heart desires.

I don’t know if I should say this, but since a clean chit has been given, you can forgive me for mentioning a particular noodle brand as the ultimate 2-minute snack for a rainy day. If you don’t want to use the tastemaker, just cook the noodles, and in a pan toss it around in a bit of oil with some soy sauce, chilli sauce, salt and chopped capsicums or spring onions. It’s hot in every way. Pasta is another favourite in my house. Cooked al dente and tossed in a readymade sauce or just olive oil and seasoning and a sprinkling of grated cheese, it is quick and if you want to put in that effort, go for the white sauce, and it’s comfort food all the way.

Nowadays, we find momos at every street corner and since it’s steamed it should be safe enough, but avoid the sauces as the humidity could cause all kinds of germs to grow and thrive. It might also be a good idea to have the vegetarian one. For the health conscious, sweet corn boiled and seasoned with salt and lime is great or a corn bhel with chopped onion and coriander and garnished with crunchy sev on top is very satisfying.

Steamed momos are a safe bet, avoid the sauces though!

Steamed momos are a safe bet, avoid the sauces though!

The kids are my excuse for cheese consumption, and nothing makes them happier than a grilled chilli cheese sandwich if you have a sandwich maker or on your tava, and a chilli cheese toast in an oven. If you want to make the open chilli cheese toast in a microwave it would be great to toast your bread first. Bread rolls could also be an option and deep fried goodies are always a favourite since they are easy to make. Just wet the bread slice, squeeze out the water, put in your grated cheese or mashed and seasoned potato with or without cheese or any other fillings, and make a tight ball with the bread slice, sealing as much as possible, and fry till golden brown. It’s gooey on the inside and crisp on the outside. I have even tried filling it with broken cooking chocolate and it works beautifully with the inside filled with lovely oozing chocolate. You will be your kids’ favourite person in a second!

Food safety is of prime importance and can’t be ignored during the monsoon. It would be best to avoid cut fruits and vegetables from the market or salads in places in restaurant buffets and parties. Certain vegetables like bitter gourd (karela), turmeric (haldi), and fenugreek (methi) have protective properties. Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and beans should be washed in salt water before cooking to kill the germs thriving on them. Lentils, chickpeas, oats and corn are the safest option during rains. If buying sandwiches from out, stick to the grilled or toasted ones, instead of the cold variety. Even hot soups whether prepared at home or packaged, are a great idea for the rainy season, especially if you feel that cold coming on. But if you feel like it, just go for that bhutta with that awesome masala on it, because the monsoon is the one season that demands to be celebrated.


Anuradha-Rajan

Anuradha Rajan

Anuradha Rajan is a mother of two, with a passion for cooking and food presentation. In an earlier avatar she was a high school teacher of English and Environmental Science.

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