After Nankhatais, it is the turn of Kulkuls (or Kalkals), also called Kidyo in Goa. Kulkuls are made by deep-frying inch long bits of sweet dough moulded/ shaped into small curls (like butter curls) which are often also coated with a sugar glaze which dries out. The kulkuls tend to resemble small worms, hence the name “Kidyo” in Konkani, the language spoken in Goa. If you do not to think of them as “wworms” you can think of them as shell shaped. I like to think that the name “Kulkul/ Kalkal comes from the rattling sound of these little treats jostling one another when they’re shaken in sugar syrup or maybe in the tin in which they would be stored.
Kulkuls are made during the Christmas in Goa and an important item in the Kuswar (a collection of Goan Christmas-time treats), and are distributed to neighbours. They’re also taken along to give away during “obligatory” visits to friends and family.
Many of the typically Christmas-time treats like the Nevri or the Chakli (posts to come in this series) are foods that are typically Indian and are prepared by various other communities are celebratory fare. Kulkuls however are typically prepared traditionally by the Christian community alone. Someone points out the Kulkuls are actually a variation of the Portuguese Filhoses Enroladas, which is a roll or curvy noodle shaped Christmas-time sweet that is deep-fried and sugar glazed. So it is possible that Kulkuls were brought to India by the Portuguese.
A slightly different version of this is made in Kerala for Christmas. They’re called “Diamond Cuts (or just Cuts)” and are thin diamond shaped pieces of dough which are also glazed with sugar syrup, or just dusted with powdered sugar.
The dough recipe is a little different since no semolina is used. A somewhat soft pliable dough is made of all-pupose flour, water, a little salt, and an egg. The dough is then rolled out thin (about a 1/4″ thick) and cut into 1″ diamond shapes which are deep-fried and later glazed with sugar syrup.
In northern India, an eggless version of Diamond Cuts are made and the savoury version of this is called Namakpare (Namak meaning salt in Hindi) and a sweet version called Shakkarpare (Shakkar meaning sugar in Hindi). I have earlier posted a baked and savoury version of this
There are recipes which use only all-purpose flour and those that use a combination of all-purpose flour and a bit of semolina (rava). Semolina tends to add a bit of crunch, and I used it in my Kulkuls. You can also leave out the egg if you choose but it will make a difference to the texture. Kulkuls can be all crunchy or sometimes a bit crunchy and a little soft on the inside. It all depends on the recipe you use. These are crunchy on the outside and a little soft inside.
Kulkuls do not need to be glazed with sugar, so you can increase the sugar in the recipe given below and leave out the glaze for a less sweet treat. Alternatively, you can lightly dust them with powdered sugar as soon as they come out of the oil.
The smaller sized Kulkuls look nicer but require even more time to shape them than the slightly larger ones. Being time and labour intensive, this is one of those recipes you do not get your hands in the dough a day ahead. Think about a week or at least 3 days ahead!
Traditionally families (near and extended), friends and close neighbours would get roped into the act of rolling Kulkuls off the moulds a few days before Christmas. So this is one of those “family time together” kinds of activity where every extra pair of hands is a bonus. Of course, if you have a family whose idea of “family activity” means coming in at the end of everything and offers to be your taste testers, then you have a half-day or whole-day’s work ahead of you depending on the quantity you’re making. It’s unbelievable how much time you put into making a handful of these only to see a handful of it disappear into someone’s mouth in a minute!
A Week Of An Indian Christmas – Day #2 : Kulkuls/ Kalkals/ Kidyo (Sugar Glazed Deep-Fried Dough Curls)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine semolina
- 2 tbsp granulated sugar (increase to 4 or 5 tbsp if not glazing)
- 2 tbsp oil/ butter at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup (approx) fresh coconut milk
- oil for greasing palms, moulds and deep frying
For the sugar glaze:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- To make fresh coconut milk, add 1/2 cup warm water to 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated coconut and blend into as much of a paste as possible. Using your hand or a fine-meshed sieve, squeeze out the milk from the ground coconut. Strain if necessary before using. This should give you about 3/4 cup of coconut milk.
- Discard the squeezed out coconut solids or pan roast it till brown and add it to the other ingredients before grinding to make a version of this spicy and dry chutney powder.You can knead the dough by hand or use the food processor like I did.
- First, pan roast the fine semolina till it gives off a nutty aroma but do not brown. Let it cool to room temperature.
- Put the flour, roasted semolina, salt, sugar and butter/ oil into the food processor bowl. Break the egg into this and run the processor a couple of times till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Now add about half of the coconut milk and process, adding just as much more of the coconut milk as is required to obtain a smooth, elastic and pliable dough which is just short of sticky.
- Turn out the dough onto your work surface and knead some more if necessary, wetting your palms with coconut milk till you have a dough of desired consistency. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and keep aside for a couple of hours so that the semolina swells up and softens.
- After the dough has rested, it is ready to be moulded. You can use a Kulkul mould, the teeth an unused and clean fine-toothed plastic comb or the tines of a fork to roll the Kulkuls.
- Pinch off little bits of dough and roll them into smooth balls a little larger than a pea, using lightly greased palms. Work with one little ball at a time leaving the rest of them covered so they don’t dry out. If you can find a clean unused plastic fine toothed comb use that, else the tines of a fork will do just as well. Lightly grease teeth of the comb or the tines of a fork. Use the back of the tines to shape the Kulkuls. You might take a look at this video to get a better idea of how to shape the Kulkuls. It is like shaping gnocchi.
- Place one small ball of dough on the back of the fork tines. Using your fingers, press down lightly and flatten the dough into a uniformly thin rectangular shape that covers the tines. Roll the rectangle from one end to the other and seal the edge well without losing the indentations formed by the tines. This is your Kulkul. Place it on a lightly greased plate/ tray. Use up the dough making Kulkuls this way.
- Heat the oil in a wok. Do not let the oil become too hot. If you drop a bit of dough (or 1 Kulkul) into the oil and it bubbles up and rises to the surface your oil is the right temperature. Hotter oil will cause the Kulkuls to brown quickly without cooking them inside.
- Once the oil is hot enough, drop as many Kulkuls as will comfortably go into the oil. Once they come up, using a slotted spoon, keep turning them over frequently so they cook and brown uniformly. Once they are done and golden brown colour, take them out and drain on paper towels.
- If you are going to, this is the time to dust them with powdered sugar. Otherwise leave them as they are store them in airtight container once they have cooled completely.
- If you plan to glaze them, preferably the next day, heat the sugar and water in a pan while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil and allow the sugar to form a syrup that coats the spoon or is of one thread consistency.
- Drop the Kulkuls into this syrup and shake the pan, or use a spoon to mix everything so the Kulkuls are evenly coated with sugar syrup. Transfer the Kulkuls to a plate quickly, separating them with a fork so they do not stick to each other. Let them cool and dry out. Then store in an airtight container. If you like your Kulkuls frosted with sugar (kids love these), just make a thicker syrup (soft ball stage).
- This recipe makes a small batch of Kulkuls, probably enough to serve a family with tea or coffee. If you plan on making enough to distribute to friends and the neighbourhood, double, triple or quadruple the recipe. I just hope that’s enough for everyone!
- The consistency of the dough is important – soft and pliable, otherwise shaping the Kulkuls can get difficult.
- Kulkuls puff up a bit during deep-frying, so make sure you use roughly pea-size balls of dough and flatten the dough well before rolling it up otherwise you would end up with rather big ones.Taste-wise it won’t matter bit but might look a little strange aesthetically, like bugs/ caterpillars rather than curls/ shell-like!
- For prettier looking Kulkuls, a fine toothed comb is the way to go. You get finer striations with a comb than with the tines of a fork.
- Remember to pinch and seal each Kulkul well after moulding or they will open up in the oil.
- The oil temperature is important. It should not be too hot.
- Do make sure you frequently agitate the Kulkuls in the oil while deep-frying to ensure uniform cooking and colour. You don’t want to end up with Kulkuls looking like they had a bad tan day – overdone on the top and pale on the underside!
- If you’re not going to glaze your Kulkuls, add a little more sugar to the dough. Kulkuls are traditionally sweet, but go ahead and make them spicy for a change by adding a bit of chilli powder/ crushed pepper to the dough and they make a great tea-time snack.