A string of pearls


It is 3.45 p.m. in the afternoon. The sky is a dull grey. It has been raining incessantly. The clouds have been busy grumbling and rumbling all day.

The rain has trickled down to a drizzle now. So I open all the windows, and let-in the rain-cooled air.

I head to the kitchen to make my afternoon cup of coffee! As the decoction falls into the filter, I start heating the milk. As I wait, my eyes scan my snack cupboard – the glass jars contain various types of savouries, sweets and dry fruits.

I settle for a muthusaram, which translates to ‘a string of pearls’ and a few strands of ribbon pakoda’. The muthusaram is a spiral and looks like a chain with small pearls dotting its surface. The ribbon pakoda simply looks like a ribbon (pictures below).

Images courtesy – indiamart.com

These savouries are made of rice, gram flour, asaefoetida, salt and chilli powder in various proportions to suit the savoury being made.

They are crisp and delicious, and go perfectly well with coffee and tea.

When we were growing up, no snacks were ever bought from shops. Most everything was homemade.

The collective term in Tamil for all these savouries and sweets put together is called bhakshanam.

So, usually in July, when the long Indian festival season starts, many different types of bhakshanams are made to celebrate the occasion.

Coffee/tea time was never complete without these yummy home made snacks.

There are murukkus, thenkuzhals, ribbon pakodas, thattais, cheedais and many more.

The names have always interested me. Thenkuzhal translates to tubes of honey, though there is no honey at all in the savoury. They look like tubes though, maybe the honey part of the name comes from their colour.

Most South Indian homes have this device called a naazhi, which is the secret to most snacks that are from the region.

Every naazhi comes with a set of plates, which have patterns cut into them – stars, thin strips, clovers, small holes and many more.

The naazhi can be of a pressing type or a rotational type. Once the dough is prepared, and the oil is warm enough, the dough is loaded into the naazhi, and one can very easily create tasty ‘strings of pearls or tubes of honey!’

Image courtesy – indiamart.com

Lots of hardwork there!

But totally worth it if you ask me, especially like now, when I am sitting and munching on a ribbon pakoda and sipping hot filter coffee, watching the rain, and having deep thoughts about life, its meaning, and sometimes just staring into space with no thoughts at all!

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