Ondeh Ondeh cookies at Parveen Deepavali - The Straits Times
New goodies from Parveen stall include (from left) ondeh ondeh cookies, pandan kuih rose and Milo Dinosaur cookies. (Photo: Chew Seng Kim/The Straits Times)

As Deepavali rolls around, out comes the dizzying assortment of sweets and snacks. But this time around, they are not just the usual favourites such as sugee cookies, makmur (ghee cookies) and murukku.

Just look to the Deepavali bazaars in Little India, where snack stall vendors are peddling creative options to whet shoppers’ appetites. Think new flavours such as ondeh ondeh cookies, macaron cookies and Nutella-filled kapit (wafer). On top of introducing new snacks, some vendors are rolling out healthier snacks as well. There are two bazaars in Little India: the 44-stall Deepavali Festival Village in Hastings Road and Campbell Lane; and the Deepavali Fair near Birch Road, which has more than 50 stalls. Both bazaars run until October 17.

Deepavali or Diwali, which falls on October 18 this year, is also known as the Festival of Lights and marks, for Hindus, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Stallholders say they are bringing in new varieties of snacks to stand out from the tough competition.

At the Deepavali Festival Village, about half of the 13 stalls in Hastings Road sell snacks and edible goodies. A stall there selling unusual snacks is Parveen, which also offers henna services. It has increased its range of cookies from six to 15 this year and new products include ondeh ondeh-inspired cookies, Milo Dinosaur cookies, red velvet chocolate chip cookies and a green-hued pandan kuih rose (honeycomb cookies). They cost between $10 and $18. These cookies are among the stall’s bestsellers, with about 100 jars sold over the past two weeks.

Parveen’s owner, Ms Kathija Begam, 49, was inspired by the “vibrant variety of snacks” sold at the popular Geylang Serai Ramadan Bazaar, where she had set up a stall earlier this year. “The stalls at the Ramadan Bazaar play with novel flavours and rainbow colours for their snacks,” she says. “I want to make Deepavali goodies more interesting to attract younger customers and to stand out.”

Ajmir Store Deepavali Festival Village
Brothers Mohamed Faizal (left) and Mohamed Ismail, who run Ajmir Store in the Deepavali Festival Village, with their new snacks. (Photo: Chew Seng Kim/The Straits Times)

A few booths away is Deva’s Cookies, which is introducing more than 10 snacks, including kapit (wafer) filled with Nutella and Lava Crunch, rock-shaped chocolate meringue cookies. Owner Sandran Raju, 56, who has been running a stall at the Deepavali bazaar for 16 years, says more wholesale snack suppliers have set up their own retail booths at the bazaar in recent years. “I have to look for more creative snacks in order to stand out from the competition,” he says.

Over at Campbell Lane, among the 50 types of cookies sold at Ajmir Store, 10 are new varieties. They include tiramisu-flavoured cookies, brightly coloured dahlia cookies and macaron cookies that resemble their namesake. The stall’s second-generation director, Mr Mohamed Ismail, 31, comes up with ideas for his cookies based on what is trending in the food scene about six months before Deepavali.

He adds that he can concoct new varieties of cookies easily because Ajmir Store makes its snacks in a factory in Johor Baru. Apart from novel varieties, Deepavali snacks are also becoming healthier. Ajmir Store’s cranberry and sugee cookies have half the sugar content of regular cookies.

Uncle's Snacks Deepavali
Mrs Shan Rajan, owner of Uncle’s Snacks, with murukku made of cashew, onions and ragi, finger millet cereal. (Photo: Chew Seng Kim/The Straits Times)

And at the Deepavali Fair across from Serangoon Plaza, snack stall Uncle’s Snacks has rolled out a ragi murukku made with a healthier blend of ragi, rice and urad dal flour. Ragi is finger millet, a cereal with a lower glycaemic index which can help stabilise blood glucose levels. The stall sells murukku in two other flavours – cashew nut and onion.

Uncle’s Snacks owner Shan Rajan, 55, says the ragi murukku is “fast-moving”, with about 20 jars sold daily. She says: “There has been a strong demand, especially from those in their 30s and 40s who are health-conscious.”

Selvni, a vegetarian snack stall at the Deepavali Fair, has introduced small portions of its 20 types of goodies such as macadamia nut chocolate chip cookies and pineapple cheese tarts. Instead of coming in just 800ml jars, they are also offered in 380 ml to 400 ml sizes at about half the price of the bigger portions. Owner Ramani Rajappan, 54, says: “Offering smaller portions allows customers to buy more varieties of snacks with the same budget.”

The Deepavali Festival Village and Deepavali Fair are held in Little India. Visit www.littleindia.com.sg for more information.

Text & Photos: The Straits Times

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