When it comes to food, celebrating invariably means something sweet. When I think back to all the Christmas goodies we have been fortunate to receive from our friends and neighbours in the past, it strikes me that the almost all the items were sweet. The only one food item that I remember being savoury is the “Chakli”. So since is only so much sweet one can take and after 4 “sweet” Christmas posts, I think it is about time we had something savoury and a bit spicy, like Chakli.
Chaklis are deep-fried rice and lentil munchies which are made by pressing out the dough through a press. Actually, you could think of them as pressed savoury spiral cookies! There are baked versions but the real Chakli is always a fried munchie. It is one of these perfect tea/ coffee time snacks when what you want is savoury and crunch, so long as you’re not counting calories. Chaklis are also prepared in many households as festive fare during Diwali and other celebrations.
Along the Western coast of India, especially in Maharashtra (Mumbai, Pune), Goa and Karnataka (Mangalore, Bangalore), it is also made in Christian homes for Christmas. In the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamilnadu, Chaklis are known as “Murukku”. And in my community, we call this Chakli “Mullu Murukku”, where “mullu” means thorns and refers to the slight projections on the Chakli that give it texture. We also make another version (different recipe with very little butter)of this called “Kai Murukku” where the “Kai” means hand and refers to the fact that it is moulded into rope-like spirals by hand.
There are literally thousands of different recipes for making Chaklis with minor variations in the ingredient list. This version is popular known as butter Chakli because, apart from being deep-fried, a large amount of butter goes into making the dough! Mine has less butter than many recipes but if you want the typically light, crisp and crunchy texture, then you need that butter. It’s not really surprising that traditionally, a lot of this sort of festive fare got made and distributed only during festivals perhaps once or twice in year, for this particular reason.
When we go back to memories of our childhood, my husband and I have the same memories of our aunts/ grandmothers telling our cousins and us that we could have these treats only after we had our lunch, or at least a small meal of “Thayir Chaadam/ Curd Rice” (a very South Indian meal of rice and yogurt)
There were two reasons for this. First, lunch in our homes is always finished with a bit of rice and yogurt, and yogurt has this unbelievable property of minimising the discomfort of bingeing on fried food which we kids had a tendency to do. The second reason was that after a meal of rice, we would be reasonably full and so wouldn’t overdo snacking.
But then, unlike these days, as young children we listened to our elders most of the time without arguing because that was how it was, and it worked well for us children and for the adults who were responsible for us.
There are Chakli recipes which use all-purpose flour, but this recipe uses rice flour and black gram lentil (urad dal) flour in the manner of savoury snacks from South India. This makes these Chaklis gluten-free. Since rice doesn’t have gluten, the lentil flour provides the binding as well as lending the Chaklis a nutty flavour and some crispness. The dough is usually formed by adding water to the flours, but I read somewhere that milk makes Chaklis crisper and tastier so I used milk to bind my dough, but you could stick to water if you prefer.
Chakli (Savoury Rice And Lentil Spirals)