When we think of the weather in India, it is likely we envisage the blazing sun beating down on golden ribbons of sand and reflecting in shimmering waves off the big city and concrete streets. However, the country of India is vast and varied – not only in its culture and cuisine, but in its climate too.
Depending on region, the climate of India ranges from the tropical weather of the southern states to the alpine ambience of the north. But there are a few months of the year, usually around the time when here in the UK we are dusting off our summer BBQs and reaching for the Pimms, that the sub-continent experiences heavy rainfall. This is the time of the monsoon, when tropical downpours sweep the country, the stifling summer heat is broken and the fertile lands of India are quenched by the rains.
Just as in the UK, when the weather turns grisly, Indian people reach for the comfort food. When the rain is thundering off the roofs and people are trapped in doors, what else is there to do but cook up a storm in the kitchen and indulge in favourite foods?
South India is famous for its delicious cuisine – you will often see classic southern recipes adorning the menus of some of London’s Fine Indian Restaurants. Here are some of the top monsoon munchies you can find in the south, to chase those rainy day blues away…
These tasty parcels of goodness can give the popular samosa a run for its money. In fact, it is a variation of this famous snack and generally involves a crispy, fried parcel encasing kheema, a spiced, mince meat preparation. The dough is usually created with flour and yoghurt to help it bind together. Not only is lukhmi a comforting monsoon snack, it is often employed as a starter at Indian weddings, particularly in Hyderabad.
- Pazham pori
Any visitor to Kerala will note the abundance of banana trees. These naturally sweet and stodgy fruits make an excellent monsoon snack, particularly when they are prepared as fritters. Bananas are coated in a rice flour batter and dropped into hot oil until deep-fried to golden perfection. The crunchy outer shell breaks apart to reveal the soft, honeyed centre – sunshine in a snack.
South India is renowned for its myriad of options for those that follow a vegetarian diet and vadai are a particular favourite during the monsoon. A thick batter is created from ground lentils and shaped into balls which are then deep-fried to provide a crispy texture. They are usually served in a warming bowl of nutritious rasam, a spicy, tangy soup – the vadai soaks up the flavour and adds bulk to the dish.
The beach-side food markets of Chennai specialise in this tasty, take-away snack – ideal for strolling the sands and watching a colourful sunset. The beauty of sundal is that, unlike many other monsoon snacks, they are healthy as well as delicious. A chickpea preparation, cooked with grated coconut and spices, sundal is served in a newspaper cone – ideal for eating on the go.