PUNUGULU: IRRESISTIBLY CRUNCHY SOUTH INDIAN DELIGHT
South Indian cuisine is renowned for its soul-soothing and mouthwatering flavors that captivate food enthusiasts worldwide. Among the countless recipes celebrated for their simplicity and delectable taste, one dish stands out as both incredibly easy to make and incredibly delicious using idli batter. Punugulu, also known as Andhra Punukulu, is a famous snack hailing from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. These small, round dumplings boast a crispy exterior and a soft, flavorful interior, making them an ideal choice for an evening snack or popular street food.
Traditionally, Punugulu was prepared by soaking urad dal and rice, grinding them into a batter, and seasoning it with jeera (cumin), green chili, and other spices. However, an interesting twist to this recipe involves using idli batter that has been aged for 3 to 4 days, which imparts a delightful tangy taste. The combination of the crispy texture and the spicy-sour flavors makes Punugulu an absolute winner. Unlike its counterpart, appam, which is cooked in a special pan, Punugulu is deep-fried, resulting in a deliciously crispy treat. It is typically served with peanut or tomato chutney, along with finely chopped onions and a sprinkle of spice masala (Karam podi).
The key ingredient for Punugulu is the idli batter, which serves as a canvas for the various flavors that can be added. This versatility allows for experimentation with different greens, chilies, spices, and herbs, making it an exciting choice for those trying it for the first time. The success of Punugulu largely depends on the consistency of the batter—it should be thick yet soft enough to hold its shape while frying. If the batter becomes too thick, it may not fry well. In some variations, fine rava (semolina) is added to the batter to enhance crispiness, and baking soda is used to achieve a fluffy texture. As a result, you can find different versions of Punugulu, such as maida punugulu, rava punugulu, and pergugu punugulu. Additionally, some recipes utilize only urad dal batter, resembling dishes like ulundu bonda or medu vada.
Although Punugulu may bear a resemblance to pakodas in terms of appearance and texture, their taste distinguishes them from besan-based pakodas. These crispy delights are typically served alongside an array of chutneys and spice masala (karam podi), making them a perfect evening snack to enjoy with a piping hot cup of chai or coffee. They also make a delightful accompaniment to an afternoon lunch, adding a hot-and-crispy element to the meal. Whenever you find yourself craving Punugulu, Amma’s South Indian is always eager to serve you a plateful of these irresistible treats alongside a variety of chutneys.