These sweet and savory snacks are Malayali favorites at Christmas
Achappam, cut diamonds and unda avalose are just a few of the festive snacks that are shared with friends and family in Kerala during the Christmas season.
Growing up in the Middle East, food blogger Teena Augustine remembers her family’s Christmas traditions as a blend of influences that combined the practices of her mother and father’s hometowns in Kerala. For his mother, originally from Thrissur, meat was commonly added to vegetable preparations, such as koorka (Chinese potato) cooked with pork and served with hoppers. For his father, who belongs to Kottayam, Christmas Day meant meals with tapioca and pearl fish curry.
Across Kerala, regional and geographic variations often determine the traditions families follow during the holiday season. Wines and cakes are also commonly prepared during this time, using fruits and herbs available in the region. “For us, Christmas lunch is Onam sadya in a non-vegetarian form,” says Teena.
But a feature of the season, she says, is sharing sweet and savory treats with loved ones as part of the celebrations. The Christian communities of Mangaluru and Goa follow a practice known as kuswar, in which nearly two dozen varieties of cakes, cookies and snacks are made for a Christmas platter, including fried cabbages called neuries and mandas. , a traditional steamed rice cake with cucumber.
In Kerala there is also a similar practice of making a range of crispy, sweet and savory snacks. “We have a lot of fries,” says Teena. “This is the only time in the year that we distribute food in the neighborhood to friends and family. “
Here are seven popular Christmas snacks made in Kerala during the holiday season:
A simple dough is made with maida before it is rolled out and cut into triangular (or diamond-shaped) pieces, which are then fried. The golden brown chips are then coated in a thick sugar syrup which makes this crunchy and sticky sweet snack a hit during the holidays. These snacks can even be made with chili powder and jeera.
Achappams or rose cookies are some of the most iconic in Kerala’s range of traditional and crispy snacks, and their appearance at Christmas is almost guaranteed. They are made from a thick paste of rice flour, coconut milk and powdered sugar. The trick, of course, is the special mold that gives the cookies their delicate rosette shape. Achappams are often packed in stacks of six or more. Spices such as cumin, sesame seeds or fennel are added for flavor.
Tea or coffee time across India calls for crispy and salty snacks and in Kerala kuzhalappam is a favorite for this reason. A rice flour dough is flattened and rolled into finger-length tubes before being fried to a pleasant golden brown. Cumin seeds are often added for flavor, as are sesame seeds.
Image courtesy: Picxy
Ambitious professionals and bakers alike make a version of kuzhalappam that ends up being almost as long as an arm, although it requires special finesse to ensure the fried dough doesn’t crack.
Churuttu may look like a samosa from the outside, but once you bite one you will quickly discover an entirely different experience. A thin sheet of dough is prepared, cut into circles and lightly baked (you can skip this) while maintaining a soft and supple state. A filling of rice powder, coconut, sugar syrup and cardamom is then made.
Image courtesy of keralatourism.org website
The dough is rolled into a cone shape and wrapped with the hot sweet filling before sealing around the edges with simple syrup. The pastries are then left to stand for a few hours to allow the soft, syrupy texture to seep into the translucent dough. Teena remembers this as a rare snack from her childhood, requiring significant skills to create. “It’s very special to me,” she said.
Outside of Kerala, Pazham Pori may be the most well-known sweet banana fritter, but another plantain preparation is a snack that reminds families of the holiday season. The raw bananas are peeled and cut into thick extra crispy slices, which are then topped with a sweet crushed cardamom syrup. Another version is Sharkara varatti, which involves frying pieces of plantain before coating them with jaggery syrup.
Image courtesy: Kerala Ministry of Culture website
A powdered rice and coconut podi is shaped into bite-sized balls using a sweet cardamom syrup (jaggery or dry ginger can also be added for taste). Once the treats are rested, they are rolled in the remaining podi to coat the entire snack. Once it’s hardened, you can enjoy a myriad of textures and flavors all in one.
If you’re looking for a brief respite from crispy snacks (but why would you?), Kumbilappam is a simple preparation that uses a sweet jackfruit filling wrapped in bay or banana leaves. Each packet is steamed until hot, fragrant and slightly spicy with additions of cumin and cardamom.