South Indian cuisine is extensive, to say the least. There are so many regional delicacies that discovering a new recipe every other day is not surprising. South Indian folks love their snack time too, when they can savour lip-smacking treats ranging from idli, vada and dosa to bonda, murukku, ragi mudde, Mangalore buns and pappadums, to name a few. One of the most loved South Indian snacks that can be seen across the various southern states is paniyaram, also known as paddu or ponganalu. Said to be an original Chettinad speciality, it is now popular not just in Tamil Nadu but other states too.
These tiny balls are made in specially designed pans, which contain multiple round moulds. If you take a walk through small towns in Tamil Nadu or Karnataka, you are bound to come across a street side stall selling piping hot paddus, made fresh in front of you. The batter, which resembles that of idli or vada, is filled in the moulds, which then slowly puffs in the heated pan as the cook drizzles some oil to make the edges crisp and golden. Team it with a spicy chutney or the all-time favourite coconut chutney, and you are sure to be more than satisfied.
Paddu or paniyaram is made using black gram and rice, which are soaked overnight and then blended into a smooth batter. Few hours of fermentation makes the batter fluffier, resulting in pillowy-soft balls. They can either be sweet (using jaggery) or savoury (including a whole bunch of spices, chillies, herbs and even meat fillings).
Various restaurants now serve paniyaram, with delicious tweaks, as starters in the menu. From stuffing the balls with spicy chicken, shredded mutton, seafood, veggies, masalas and more, to serving them with interesting dips and sauces, these South Indian balls are a must-try. Cooking it at home is easy too. Just like how you make your batter for idli or vada, you need to do the same for paniyaram, and relish them with friends and family.