Motorpedia – What Is “Kacang Putih”?July 6, 2011 | 8,045 views
“Here Comes the Kacang Putih Man!” A very generic; instantly recognizable tray of Indian snacks displayed on the green-painted compartments on the back of his motorcycle.
MotorWHAT?! Don’t throw rotten tomatoes, brickbats, durians or slippers please … Just a very random phrase that sprang to mind when I was contemplating on a catchy title. Plus, aren’t you curious on what ‘kacang putih’ really is?
If you’re a Malaysian baby, then guaran-damn-teed you would have heard of, tasted, loved or abhorred (why should you?!) the classic Indian snacks usually sold by the roadside, or in school canteens.
But any idea WHY they’re named as such?
For more than two decades, Mr Rajan has been parked at this same spot on a daily basis selling his brand of homemade ‘kacang putih’ … prepared freshly on a day to day basis from his house in Kampung Simee.
Main character for this screenplay? Mr Rajan and his makeshift ‘kacang putih’ stall parked under a huge tree in front of the Ipoh Garden post office daily; except Sundays.
Walk up to any ‘kacang putih’ seller, and predictably, you can expect what’s the array of snacks on display. Unless there’s some creative soul willing to take daredevil chances and conjure up fusion (fruity-flavoured murukku, anyone?) varieties, I highly doubt this age-old tradition will be shaken up by immense commercialization.
But you’ll never know, with the revival of cupcakes, sudden surge and fizzled craze for doughnuts and the epitome of success in commercialization; renaissance of the humble Ipoh white coffee.
Anyway, let Motormouth walks you through the common range of ‘kacang putih’ sold at most stalls; and bear with this rather lengthy tutorial. Unless of course, I fall asleep halfway and decide to skip the ramblings ….after all, it’s almost midnight at this time of writing.
#1 – Kacang Kuda is NOT a horse’s nuts (don’t laugh) …but chickpeas boiled until soft, and this was what I had in mind when I thought of the original ‘kacang putih’. WRONG. This ain’t the culprit that started this unassuming trend that’s slowly taking over lives (okay …. VERY slowly).
#2 – Star Murukku (read about Murukku from Wikipedia) are essentially twisted design of the classic boring murukku; a crispy deep fried snack made from urda (black lentil) and rice flour, with salt, chili and various spices. Mr Rajan takes things a step further by incorporating garlic into the flour mix; lending the snacks a robust hint.
#3 – Tapioca Chips (Kerepek Ubi Kayu) – One of the more common ones that have been since lifted off the ‘kacang putih’ only shelf, tapioca chips are essentially …. thinly-sliced tapioca deep-fried until golden perfection, then sprinkled lightly with salt for flavour.
#4 – Murukku Campur (Bombay Mix might be the glamourous name befitting this) - Thinner strands of murukku seasoned with chili powder and deep fried with curry leaves for a heavier flavour.
#5 – Kacang Parang (Fried Broad/Fava Bean, NOT Sword Bean or Machete Bean!) - Come in a dark brown shells, the beans are also lightly seasoned with salt for extra flavour. Personally, I find this rather cumbersome though.
#6 – Garlic Murukku - Harder than the normal ones, with slightly rougher edges and predominantly tasting of rich garlic flavour. A favourite of mine, with just a very faint nuance of spiciness.
#7 – Pagoda (Not Pagoda brand groundnuts); Mr Rajan fries up a very crunchy version with the right balance of spiciness, saltiness and not overwhelming hint of spices. And no worries, you won’t lose your dentures biting into these.
#8 – Close enough, but just ain’t the same. What do you call THIS in English (or Malay, for that matter)? Is this ‘Parapu’?
#9 – The REAL Kacang Putih. Seldom seen on the racks nowadays, the beans are roasted lightly without oil or salt. The flavours come from the natural characteristics of the very tiny beans.
Of course, you have the green peas, spicy murukku, the wheelie-like snacks children love, and various nuts from the ‘kacang putih’ stall, but the ones listed above are but some of the more prominent fixtures.
Storytime : Back in my primary school days, a packet of ‘kacang putih’ would only set us back from 10 cents to 50 cents at most. And when Mum came over to fetch us home, she would buy RM1.00 worth of kacang putih, and we would be elated as RM1.00 = a darn BIG packet enough to be shared between brother and myself.
How time and inflation go in tandem. The same 50 cents pack costs RM2.00 now. I was still surprised as it’s been some time since I bought my own ‘kacang putih’ from vendors peddling the streets of Ipoh; the last few times were from the major retail outlets in Kampung Kacang Putih in Buntong.
We don’t usually pay attention to these ‘warriors’ on the streets; adamantly preserving the eroding tradition that is good street food …. And what a shame, since you can never order ‘kacang putih’ in swanky restaurants on a plate and enjoy them like you really should. But instead, you brace the sun and the rain, like how the ‘kacang putih’ man does, walk over to plethora of temptations laid out in front of you, then conduct free-tasting session (definitely allowed) before settling for a packet or two of your favourite snacks. And take pride that you have made your contribution to this dying tradition.
Mr Rajan has been plying the same route for 22 years now. And he himself admitted that his ‘sifu’ (mentor) is the infamously proclaimed ‘Wong Fei Hung’ (another Indian man) who used to sell from his stall in Ipoh Garden too; but now his sons take over his business in front of Public Bank Ipoh Garden and another in front of Sun Marpoh Restaurant near to Maybank Ipoh Garden.
KACANG PUTIH STALL @ IPOH GARDEN POST OFFICE
Jalan Dato Lau Pak Khuan,
31400 Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Opens from 12.00pm – 7.00pm daily.
Closed on Sundays.
*Near to Ipoh Garden roundabout, the post office is next to Courts.
Google Map to this ‘kacang putih’ stall
GPS Coordinates : 4.612583,101.10929
*Want more ‘Kacang Putih’ stories? Follow this link. And seek out the enclave in Buntong named Kampung Kacang Putih with houses-cum-retail outlets selling fresh ‘kacang putih’ from the wok !!!