In the past, buying kacang puteh in cones made of newspaper every time one went to the movies was a given. Back in the day (as your parents and grandparents will remember), it was also a common sight on the streets as pushcart vendors peddled a variety of roasted, steamed and fried nuts, beans, crisps and more. The savoury snack was Singapore’s popcorn and today, way cooler than popcorn ever could hope to be. And back then, it cost just a few cents.
What is kacang puteh?
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 putehbeing sold.
The last kacang puteh seller in Singapore
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
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.
Newspaper/Magazine squares to form cones
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.
Steamed white beans
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.
Flavoured mixed nuts
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.
All of the above 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 https://partymojo.com.sg/kacang-puteh/. They will delivery, collect, set-up and dismantle a stall of 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 and all you need to provide is a a table. Prices begin at $220 for 100 servings within an hour.