Inspiration can come from anywhere and there’s no telling where your muse could hail from. So if you're bored of serving the same hackneyed pigs-in-a-blanket and chips-n-dip, maybe it's time to try something with a twist.
Think Indian food and one can immediately smell the spices
and whiffs of spluttered mustard seeds and curry leaves. It’s almost involuntary, how one is suddenly blessed with the ability to visualize vivid yellows and oranges, the hues of curries and kormas, with garnishes of fresh cilantro leaves and fragrant mint sprigs.
So why not give your guests a surprise by whipping up some tasty appetizers inspired by Indian street food?
We put together a bunch of easy tips to adapt the basic techniques and then adjust them to your liking and to suit the palates of your visitors.
Ready to get down and funky? Here goes:
are crispy, bite-sized, small puffed globes that can be used to serve a variety of fillings, even liquid ones if they are eaten immediately upon serving. This means you can stuff them with a bunch of things, such as a spiced salad of sorts with diced apples, pomegranate seeds, bean sprouts, crushed nuts, dried cranberries, and flax meal, all tossed together with some pink Himalayan salt and red pepper flakes or a dash of paprika. Keep a bottle of tabasco on the table if your guests want to spice things up even further.
Since this dish is called pani puri
, because pani
means ‘water,’ you could keep a punch bowl filled with some cumin-dusted buttermilk on the table. If your guests would prefer alcohol, it would be fun to add some green chili-infused vodka to the buttermilk for a special kick.
These are triangular and usually deep fried but can also be baked if you’re trying to eat healthy
. Made of mildly savory pastry sheets that are folded over after being stuffed with assorted fillings, they can be filled with anything from mashed spiced potatoes, diced vegetables, or even minced meat cooked with peas and chopped onions. If you can’t find readymade samosa
strips in your local grocery store, feel free to use phyllo pastry sheets for an even flakier and tastier result.
It can be a treat to binge on
these flat, crisp, blini-like discs after piling them high with thick dips or a mixed mash of beans or potatoes, and topped with rice crispies. Experiment with familiar party dips like guac or bean dip, salsa or even slightly dry Mexican-style chili. You can even serve these puris
just like you would nachos and team them up with a bunch of assorted dips and grated cheese that you scoop up with the puris
Imagine munching on spoonful after spoonful of savory, slightly spiced muesli. That’s exactly what chivda
is, and you can have several variations based on what you like or would prefer to avoid. So rice crispies, assorted nuts, dried and fried lentils, corn flakes, raisins and whatever else you think will add some crunch.
Toss all of these in wok with a spoonful of any mild cooking oil, and sprinkle on some Cajun spice, mixed herbs, paprika or even go bolder with piri piri powder or get creative with a powdered blend of white, green, red and black peppercorns. Coconut chips that are fried or baked add a nice sweet and smoky touch to the finished dish.
Steamed and cake-like in texture, mini versions of this fermented food are a guaranteed hit at any party with hungry guests. They’re cute as buttons and can be impaled on satay sticks or cocktail skewers, or even large toothpicks normally used for fruit or cheese cubes. Because they’re made from dehusked lentils and rice
, they can be great if your guests suffer from gluten allergies. To make them you needn’t go through the entire process, not when you can cheat by buying ready-to-cook boxed idli
mix at your local Indian grocery store.
Just mix it up with some oil and water to create a thick batter and pour it into special idli
molds (there are microwave-friendly options available), which you then steam until cooked. If you don’t want to splurge on the molds, just pour the batter into any heatproof dish and let it cook. You can cut the resulting ‘cake’ into cubes instead of the little rounds. If any purists turn up and criticize, just say you chose to Picasso the dish!
Serve these babies up with creamy coconut chutney
, tangy tamarind chutney
or even a spicy green one
. For a little more fun and added vitamins, feel free to add some carrot paste to the batter before steaming for brilliant orange results, some grated beets for pinkish-red ones and if green is your preferred color, some spinach paste will do the trick.
Images: Shutterstock, Calcuttachow.com, oneteaspoonlife.blogspot.com, rakskitchen.net, thatsthesecretformula.files.wordpress.com, sinamontales.com, yelp.com & vegrecipesofindia.com