Kai Murukku – Crisp, buttery fried rice flour treat

Background:

Kai Muruku evokes memories of weddings in the family. This crispy rice treat is hard to make and the hallmark of a good tam-bram chef is his/her ability to handcraft these tasty morsels. I grew up watching Amma make Kai Murukku and Seedai for Krishna Jayanthi. In the recent past, I have relied on Grand Snacks to satisfy this craving. In the past month when visiting my sister Amma indulged her by making murukkus at home.

Stuff you will need:

Good quality rice soaked for a few hours, dried, ground and sieved to yield silky smooth flour. (I cup)
Urad dhal – roasted to a golden brown, ground, sieved to yield a smooth flour. (1 tbsp aka karandi)
Butter: 1 stick (1/4 lb)
Jeera/Cumin seeds: 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Asafoetida 1/2 tsp
Canola oil to fry.

How to make it?

Mix the rice flour, urad flour, jeera, asafoetida, salt and butter with just enough water to make a pliable dough. Taking a portion of the dough use index, ring fingers and thumb to twirl the muruku into shape as shown. Make about 10 murukkus on a clean sheet of paper or thin muslin cloth.

Heat oil in a shallow pan. When oil is hot enough, use a flat ladle (dosa thiruppi) to slide the muruku into hot oil. Murukkus can be fried in batches depending on size of pan. Turn every once in a while till the murukkus are slightly brown and drain and remove to a tissue lined container.

Stores well in a cool airtight container.

Notes:

Rice flour can be used in place of soaked, dried, ground rice. The quality differs obviously but it also takes out a chunk of the time consuming process. Making murukkus take time and practice. Do not skimp on butter or try replacing with ghee. This will not give the nice crispy texture to the murukku.

Puran Poli – A labor of love.

Background:

Puran poli is one of my all time favorite sweets. It is one of those dishes that are made occasionally when people visit or for festivals though nothing specific comes to mind. For me it is a labor of love. Mixing, measuring, grinding and patting it in shape. Amma pours her love into it when she does make it. With just over a week before she left for home, I made my request for polis and she obliged. As always. Like moms do.

Stuff you will need:

For the Puran (filling)
Channa dhal 1 cup – steamed till cooked but not mushy. Should crumble to touch.
Powdered jaggery or brown sugar – 1 cup
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Cardamom – 1 tsp

For the shell

Maida – 1 cup
Gingelly Oil – 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Turmeric – a pinch

How to make it?

Grind together the cooled, cooked, crumbled channa dhal, jaggery and coconut to a smooth paste. Mix powdered cardamom. Set aside. Make a dough of the maida with salt, turmeric and water. Add oil to make it a loose stretchy dough. This is important as it needs to be loose and stretchy to make the poli later. Set aside for a few hours.

When dough is rested, make equal parts of dough and the filling. On a flat surface, use a non stick sheet (vazha ilai or ziploc bag) and spread the dough to the size of a small puri. Place the puran ball on it.

Cover the ball with the dough.

Pat to make a flat circular poli.

Remove to hot tawa.

Cook on both sides with a couple of drops of ghee till crispy and browned.

Remove and cool on plate.

Serve hot or cold with a dollop of butter or ghee.

Makes 18 – 20 polis depending on size.

Special notes:

Do not skimp on oil when making dough. A tight dough will cause cracks in poli and will not allow for proper coverage. Puran made with brown sugar instead of jaggery tastes milder.

Thenkuzhal – Deep fried snack made from rice and urad flour

Background:

Every time we are in the mood for a simple home made snack that can put store brought chaklis to shame, K and I beg my amma to make this for us. Called thenkuzhal in tamil it is a mix of urad dhal flour and rice flour laced with a hint of asafoetida in it and deep fried. A cousin of the more famous chaklis this is not hot and goes well with the afternoon tea or coffee.

Stuff you will need:

A chakli press
Rice flour – 3 parts
Urad flour – 1 part
Asafoetia – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Ghee or butter – 2 tbsp
Oil to fry (I use canola)

How to make it?

Knead a tight dough of urad dhal, rice flour, salt, cumin seeds, asafoetida, butter and water. Make the dough just before you are ready to fry to ensure thenkuzhal that takes in minimal oil.

Make balls the size of a fist and Using the chakli press pictured below, press the dough to extrude into thin noodles into the hot oil. Once the thenkuzhal swims to the surface of the oil, turn occasionally till a golden brown. Remove to a tissue lined plate or vessel.

Makes 15 – 20 thenkuzhals based on size.

Special Notes:

Adding more butter or ghee makes for a crispier thenkuzhal. If any dough is leftover, resist the temptation to make seedais out of it since they have a tendency to burst.

Pooris/Puris – Thin deep fried whole wheat bread

Background:

Poori Masala is my idea of comfort food. It perks up a gloomy day and in my mind brings back memories from my childhood of lazy Sunday afternoons lining up in the kitchen with my siblings for the next poori. It is reminiscent of the carefree nature of my youth. Of family time and leaning against appa as he sat satiated from a hearty meal.

Stuff you will need:

Whole wheat flour – 2 cups
Salt – to taste
Sugar – a pinch
Ghee – 3 tsps
Water – as needed
Extra flour
Rolling pin
Flat surface
Oil – Enough to fry

How to make it?

Add the sugar, salt and ghee to the whole wheat flour and mix with your hands till the ghee is dispersed well in the flour. Add water to knead the dough sparingly. You need a tight dough with minimal water to ensure the pooris are not soaking up oil when they fry. Another key is to make the dough and fry the pooris as soon as possible. Resting the dough causes the pooris to soak up oil too.

Heat oil in a shallow frying pan. When the oil is ready, make a small ball of the dough and on a clean flat surface use the rolling pin to roll out a small circle from the dough ball. Slide in oil and turn when it bubbles up and forms a fluffy ball. Remove from oil when golden and stack on a paper tissue lined vessel.

Serve hot with potato masala or even plain old tomato ketchup.

Makes 12 small pooris

Special Notes:

Pooris make excellent finger food. They are ideal for picnics and long journeys. They keep well and can be had with pickle for train journeys.

Thayir Semiya – Semolina/Vermicelli in seasoned yogurt sauce and garnished with shredded carrots and cucumbers

Background:

Growing up in Coimbatore with Annapoorna at walking distance meant plenty of thayir semiya. I absolutely love this alternative to the ubiquitous thayir sadham. Served chill with a side of lemon pickle this humble dish truly makes me drool. So, yesterday breaking my head in trying to make something other than the regular samayal, I settled for godhuma dosai with chinna vengaya sambar and thayir semiya.

Stuff you will need:
Semiya (Vermicelli/wheat noodles) – 1 cup
Ghee – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard – 1 tsp
Green or Red chillies – 1 split into two
Ginger – small cube grated
Curry leaves – 4-5 chopped
Asafoetida – a pinch
Cucumber seedless small – 1 grated
Carrot small peeled – 1 grated
Yogurt/Curds thick – 4 tbsp
Warm milk – 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

How to make it?

Boil a pan 3/4ths full of water till it gets to a rolling boil. In the meanwhile roast the semiya well in ghee till it turns a reddish hue and set aside. When water is boiling add the semiya and cook till done but not mushy. Drain in colander and wash with cold water. Set aside. In a small kadai, heat oil and when hot enough add mustard, asafoetida, green chillies, grated ginger and curry leaves.

In a mixing bowl transfer the cooled, cooked semiya, add the seasoning, salt and the warm milk. Mix. Add the thick curds and mix well. Garnish with grated carrots and cucumber.

Serve chilled with lemon pickle

Serves two

Special notes:

The seasoning can be omitted and instead grated carrots, cucumbers can be supplemented with roasted cashew bits and cut red grapes.

Mor koozhu – Buttermilk and rice tempered heartily with mustard, sundried chillies and lentils

Background:

Mor koozhu or Mor kali always reminds me of my dad’s grandmom (Periamma paati as we called her). I had the good fortune to have heard tons of mythological stories from her, have my hair braided with flowers and in general get to know the grandmom who gave me my grandmom. In her last years when she would often visit us, she would ask my mom to make this for her. She loved the sour taste of the buttermilk and the crunchy seasoning that also included mor milagai fried in oil. Savory, not definitely health food but a cup of which has the uncanny ability to transport me to the agraharams of yore.

Stuff you will need:

Rice flour – 2 cups
Butter milk – 1 cup
Salt to taste
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dhal – 2 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 tsp
Mor milagai (deep fried) or red chillies – 5

Curry leaves – 1 sprig washed and chopped
Gingelly oil – 1 tbsp

How to make it?

In a broad vessel mix rice flour, salt and buttermilk to a nice pouring consistency. Add water if you have to. In a frying pan, heat gingelly oil and season mustard till it bursts, add urad dhal, curry leaves, asafoetida, red chillies or mor milagai and saute. Now pour the rice batter and turn slowly till oil is absorbed. On medium heat turn every so often till the mixture solidifies and does not stick to the pan. Cover and cook on low heat for five minutes till rice flour is completely cooked.

It is OK to stop at this stage and serve hot. Or continue to turn and heat on low medium heat and add some more oil till the mixture drys up and crumbles into tiny balls.

Serves four as a snack

Special Notes:

Definitely a snack that is high on oil and has no nutritive value but definitely ranks high on the taste scale. Typically made as a palaharam in the good old days.

Chaat – Bhel Puri a.k.a crunchy colorful spicy salad

Background:

Quick and easy. My favorite snack and at times dinner. Packs in goodness of colorful veggies and the crunch of desi sev and puris. Lends itself to infinite customization and can be made with as many or as less ingredients on hand.

Stuff you will need:

2 cups bhel mix or a combo of thin sev, murmura (pori) or even mixture
2 tbsp date/tamarind sauce (available at Indian stores)
2 tbsp mint or coriander chutney
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp chaat masala
2 carrots peeled and grated
2 handfuls sprouted whole moong
1 small onion peeled and chopped fine
1/2 inch ginger peeled and grated
1 green chilly chopped fine
2 medium tomatoes chopped fine
1 potato steamed and cubed
Coriander – chopped fine to garnish
Salted peanuts – a handful

How to make it?

In a large bowl combine all the chopped and grated veggies. Add the peanuts. Add the sauces and the chaat masala. Mix well. Add the 2 cups of bhel mix. Fold in. Mix well and serve garnished with chopped coriander.

Serves two

Special notes:

2 tbsps of thick yogurt may be added to give a different taste to the dish. Get creative by adding colorful peppers chopped well. Or pander to a sweet tooth by adding chopped apples or green apples.