Back in the day, buying kacang puteh in cones made of newspaper every time one went to the movies was a given.
It was also a common sight to see vendors peddling a variety of roasted, steamed and fried nuts, beans, crisps and more out of pushcarts on the street. The savoury snack was Singapore’s original “popcorn”, though it was way cooler than popcorn ever could be. Best of all? It cost just a few cents! Read more in the gallery, then find out how to serve your own kacang puteh at home.
[Photo: Priyanka C. Agarwal]
Brought to our shores by Indian immigrants, kacang puteh bears resemblance to the Indian street snack called chevdo or chana (chickpeas). Sellers started out by selling steamed chickpeas or peanuts, which would make for a healthy treat in between meals. Over time, these were then supplemented with fried, roasted and sugared nuts, as well as an assortment of beans, peas, and crisps. Added to the mix were crisps like tapioca chips, potato chips or murukku (rice and lentil crisps). You could opt for individual ingredients in cones, or a mixture of any of the above. Today’s prices begin at a $1 per cone, if and when you can find kacang puteh being sold.
[Photo: Priyanka C. Agarwal]
Once a fixture outside cinema halls like Balestier Road’s Hoover Theatre, or at The Cathay, a kacang putehstall is a rare sight these days. You may find kacang puteh in pop-up pasar malams and food events, and perhaps at random hipster cafes and weddings. The only permanent, dedicated stall we know of stands outside Peace Centre at 35 Selegie Road. This family-run stall is owned by Mr Amirthaalangaram Moorty, who took over the business from his father, who has since retired to his hometown in India. It’s is the only one of it’s kind, serving a wide variety of beans, nuts, peas and crisp-fried snacks. Mr Moorty’s wares are mostly handmade from scratch, and he even spends his days off prepping for the coming week. The stall is in operation from Mondays to Saturdays, from 10.30am to 8pm.
Do-it-yourself Kacang Puteh
Given the dire lack of kacang puteh stalls, the best way to get some is to make it yourself. With a couple of clever shortcuts, it acutally isn’t hard to prepare your own at home, even though the widest variety and old-school flavour can be had only at a “live” kacang puteh stall. The bonus to making your own is that you’ll be in total control of how much of each ingredient goes into your home-made mix. Here we list some of the key ingredients, and those that provide a good balance of sweet, spicy and salty flavours and crunchy, and soft textures. A great, nostalgia-inducing addition to your next dinner party or gathering. The following is what you need for a live, D-I-Y kacang puteh station.
There’s no other way to serve kacang puteh, except in a paper cone. Accept that you’ll have to make them yourself. Here is a nifty YouTube tutorial.
From there, you really just need to assemble your kacang puteh mix. This can be done with mostly pre-bought ingredients, thrown into a metal mixing bowl. Use a large wooden salad spoon and fork to mix it all up before serving in your paper cones. Read on for our ingredients list.
Chickpeas or kacang kuda are the healthiest element in a typical kacang puteh (although Peace Centre’s kacang puteh seller uses white peanuts too). To make it easier on yourself, use pre-cooked tinned chickpeas. Steam and flavour with a bit of salt and lemon.
Easily everyone’s favourite kind of nut. These sweet, nutty treats are can be found at any grocery or convenience store. Try Camel Sugar Peanuts, $1.45 for 140g.
[Photo: Harvest Box]
Typical mixed nut treats are available via the Tong Garden brand in Honey Roasted flavour ($5.45 for 140g). For something more adventurous for your kacang puteh mix, try fun flavours like Chilli and Lime, and Coconut and Lemongrass sold by Wholesome Harvest ($6.90 for 140g) via Redmart.com.
Party Mix is all your favourite crunchies mixed together. Peanuts, broad beans, chick peas, green peas and cracker biscuits. Tong Garden’s is the most widely available ($3.50 for 400g).
[Photo: Ban Hock Brand]
Plain, chilli flavoured or with chilli and ikan billis — scour the supermarket aisles for your favourite kind. Our preferred flavour is Sambal Kerepek Ubi by Ban Hock Brand ($3.95 for 35g).
The sheer variety of murukku available is mind-boggling. Essentially twisted fritters made of rice and lentils, they come in all sorts of twisty, bendy and curly shapes and may be flavoured, spiced, and even curried. Opt for a couple of varieties to keep things interesting. FairPrice’s housebrand of Muruku comes in fine and thick varieties ($1.30 for 150g). Camel’s Round Muruku ($1 for 130g) is the traditional kind that can be kept whole of broken into small pieces.
[Photo: Tong Garden]
Tong Garden’s crispy Broad Beans in onion and garlic flavour, or their Crunchy Coated Green Peas (both, $2 for 180g) make very worthy kacang puteh additions.
Products mentioned are available at most Fairprice and Cold Storage outlets.
Rent a Kacang Puteh stall at your house party or event!
If you don’t want to take the trouble of putting together your own D-I-Y kacang puteh table, get in touch with the guys at PartyMojo Singapore. They will deliver, collect, set up and dismantle a stall with all the dry goods (i.e., sugar-coated nuts, salted nuts, seaweed nuts, garlic nuts, murukku and mixed nuts in old-school jars). They will also bring the cones. All you need to provide is a table! Prices begin at $220 for 100 servings within an hour.
By Priyanka C. Agarwal, August 2018 / Updated by Muneerah Bee, February 2019
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