After an amazing landslide victory for America, it seems befitting this year that Diwali, the festival of lights follows soon after. Apt for a resounding celebration with lights and fireworks, don’t you think? It just seemed quite the coincidence that we will soon be celebrating a victory with this special festival which symbolizes “the return of king Rama” – one of the most popular festivals celebrated in India and many of its neighboring countries.
Being in Singapore this year for Diwali is a new experience. With its diverse population and a relatively large number of Indians, it isn’t surprising that Singapore gets an official holiday, the streets are lit up (well, Little India is) and little shops are bedecked with lights, lamps, firecrackers (sparklers only) and decorations. (Little India Picture Courtesy: Vaishali Shah)
And so when my friends and I got together to explore the city and lunch (as you can see there are enough options here for that) we were in for quite a colorful treat. Some of us have already begun to prep for Diwali and it’s quite inspiring to see ideas for Diwali snacks and decorations. I’ve usually been remiss in making snacks or sweets ahead of time, and usually cobble things together last minute, some home made and some store brought. This year, my good friend Preethi was my source of inspiration. I could gather from our conversations that she is quite the foodie and an expert at Diwali snacks. Ribbon Pakoda, the traditional Diwali savory, was her forte, or so I overheard as she reeled off the proportion of the flour and the recipe.
So it seemed timely (for me:) when she casually mentioned she was going to start making her batch of Diwali snacks yesterday and I asked if I could be her assistant in her kitchen and watch her make it. Turns out I was also the official taster – I sampled the first batch of hot, crisp ribbon pakodas with a cup of hot Preethi’s ginger tea. The highlight of this recipe – she doesn’t use a lot of butter and the pakodas don’t seem to soak up much oil either. The result – non-greasy, crisp pakodas of perfection.
Ingredients: (for 2 cups of pakodas)
1 tbsp butter (you can add more unto 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp. The more the butter the crisper, but it will also soak up more oil)
1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup gram flour or besan
1 1/2 -2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp asafetida
salt to taste
Water as needed for the dough
1 1/2 cups oil for frying
1. Mix the rice flour, besan, salt, red chili powder and asafetida in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and mix well.
2. Slowly add water to make a smooth and soft dough.
3. Heat the oil in a kadai or a round bottomed vessel till the oil is hot. Drop a small piece of the dough in the oil and if it sizzles and immediately rises to the top, the oil is piping hot and ready to use for frying.
4. Take an iron press (this is a traditional press that comes with several variable plates of different shapes. Kinda like a cookie cutter press but more robust. I wonder if anyone has tried these with a cookie cutter?), drop a round ball of dough into the press, put the top of the press together.
5. Now squeeze the ribbons into the hot oil while moving your hand in a circular motionso the ribbons take shape of a circular almost floral design. Cook for about 5 minutes turning it once until golden brown.
6. Serve with a hot cup of chai.
Preethi’s tip – When you finish using the ladle to fry a batch of the the pakodas, keep the ladle in the mixing bowl that holds the dough. Drops of the hot oil from the ladle mixed in the dough helps add to the crispness. You can alternatively sprinkle a few drop of the hot oil and mix the dough well before frying the next batch.
Have a joyous and wonderful Diwali!!