The one Diwali treat I can’t do without is chakli. This wonderfully crunchy savoury snack is my favourite; a must-have on my Diwali platter as it offsets the sweetness of the Indian ‘mithai’ that we all consume too many of at this time of year.
Chakli (or ‘murukku’ as they call it in South India) is an Indian (more specifically, Maharashtrian) spiral-shaped crunchy snack of deep-fried dough made of rice and lentil flour with added spices. The characteristic texture and spiral shape comes as a result of passing it through an extruder called a ‘chakli maker’. These little devices are essential for creating the spiky texture that makes chakli so crunchy. Fortunately, chakli makers are readily available all over the world nowadays.
Traditionally, chakli making is a laborious process that begins with roasting rice and various lentils along with whole Indian spices. These are then ground in a mill to make what we call a ‘bhajani’ in Marathi. Once made, this bhajani can be stashed away for up to 6 months ready for whenever the chakli cravings strike. I’ve seen my Mum make chakli this way for Diwali every year for as long as I can remember. Bhajani preparations start weeks ahead of the festival. So traditional chakli requires some planning.
However, in recent years with life being so hectic, this instant chakli-making method has become my saviour. You can make wonderfully crunchy, perfectly spiced, spirals of chakli in just half an hour without the hassle of roasting and milling the lentils and rice.
This instant chakli recipe:
- Makes chakli without ‘bhajani’
- Prepares 15-18 chaklis within 35 minutes
- Tastes very much like chakli made with the more traditional method
- Doesn’t need pre-planning
In this recipe, I use rice flour and ground split roasted gram (also called ‘dalya’ or ‘futanyachi dal’ in Marathi or ‘dariya dal’ in Hindi). The rice to lentil ratio is 4:1. To this, I add carom seeds, white sesame seeds, asafoetida, red chilli powder and salt to taste. I drizzle some oil (at room temperature) over the mixture and make a firm dough. I push the dough through an extruder to shape into spiky spirals. They are then deep-fried and allowed to cool to retain that crunchy texture.
Instant Chakli Recipe / Maharashtrian ChakliCourse: Starter, SnacksCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Medium
This hassle-free, no-bhajani instant chakli recipe makes wonderfully crunchy chakli. It’s vegan, gluten-free and tastes just like the traditional chakli made with bhajani flour.
75g (½ cup) split roasted gram lentils / dariya dal / dalwa or dalya (in Marathi)
300g (2 cups) white rice flour
2 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp carom seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp asafoetida
2 tbsp roasted cumin and coriander powder
2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
60ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
240ml (1 cup) warm water
Oil for deep frying
Oil to grease the steel plates
Kadhai or a deep frying pan
- Grind the roasted gram dal to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Sift the rice flour and the ground roasted gram flour into a wide bowl.
- Add the sesame seeds, carom seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, roasted cumin-coriander powder, chilli powder and salt. Mix well.
- Pour in the oil and mix by rubbing it thoroughly into the flour by hand. You can squeeze it in your fist to see if the oil will bind the flour together.
- Now slowly add the warm water a little at a time. Mix and start bringing the flour together to make a dough. After adding all the water, knead to form a tight dough. Leave it covered to rest for 20 minutes.
- Grease the back of a small steel plate with oil. Lay it upside down (oil side up). Insert the star-shaped plate into the chakli maker and brush the inside with oil.
- Now take an orange-sized ball of dough. Knead it again on a flat surface to make it pliable. Make a log and stuff into the oiled chakli maker. Close it and wind the handle until dough starts to emerge. As the dough continues to extrude from the chakli maker, curl it into a spiral pattern starting at the centre. Break the dough off with your finger once you’ve made a spiral with 3-4 rounds and your chakli is formed. Press the end of the chakli spiral into the neighbouring strand so that it doesn’t break when deep frying.
- Heat sufficient oil in a kadhai or a deep frying pan over a medium to high flame. Drop a tiny bit of dough into the oil to test whether it has reached the optimum temperature. The dough should sink in the oil at first, sizzle and rise to the top. Once this test has passed, flip the chakli from the back of the plate onto the slotted spoon and transfer it into the hot oil.
- Fry over a medium to high flame, ensuring the oil isn’t too hot. If the chakli browns too quickly, turn the flame down a bit. Don’t touch the chakli until it’s ready to flip, which should be in about 30-45 seconds, if the temperature is right. Once ready, flip and fry the other side of the chakli for another 30-45 seconds. Gently remove with the slotted spoon and hold against the rim of the kadhai for a few seconds to drain some of the excess oil. Transfer to kitchen paper. Fry the remaining chakli in small batches.
- After frying all the chakli, let them rest on a paper towel for 1-2 hours to cool down completely so that they don’t go soft and soggy. Gently transfer into a clean and dry air-tight jar and store in a cool dry place. The chakli should keep well in an air-tight jar at room temperature for a month. It tastes delicious with a hot cup of tea or on its own as a snack.
- General Notes:
- 1. It’s a good idea to first prepare only a couple of chakli and deep fry them immediately to test whether the dough is right.
- 2. If the chakli breaks while deep frying, there’s too much fat in the dough. Add a bit more rice and knead again with some warm water.
- 3. If the chakli is too hard to bite into, add a couple of teaspoons of oil (at room temperature) to the dough and knead again.
- 4. Always extrude the chakli dough out in small batches and deep fry them immediately. This way you can adjust the dough if the chakli doesn’t come out well.
- 5. If the chakli spirals are likely to be left for longer than 5 minutes before deep frying, cover them with a dry cotton cloth or paper towel.
- 6. You can use grease-proof paper to rest the extruded chakli spirals on instead of the greased steel plates. However, the equal-sized steel plates help with making more uniform chaklis.
- 7. In this recipe I didn’t heat the oil before adding it to the dough. My chakli came out crunchy despite that. However, I’d be interested to hear your feedback if you tried this recipe using warm oil.
- 8. You can spice up the chakli dough by adding ginger-garlic paste or even dried chilli flakes.
- 9. Use the slotted spoon to gently place the chakli in hot oil at the time of frying instead of dropping by hand. This is not only safer but also stops the burnt debris that settles at the bottom of the kadhai from getting stirred up and ending up on the chakli.
- 10. I like adding freshly roasted & ground coriander seed and cumin seed to the flour at the time of making the dough. To make it fresh, simply toast the cumin and coriander seeds separately until fragrant. Let them cool and then grind them in a coffee grinder to get that fragrant and fresh toasted coriander and cumin seed powder.
- 11. Skip asafoetida to make it gluten-free.
- 12. Ensure the smooth side of the star-shaped chakli plate of the extruder is placed facing inwards and the rough side is facing outwards.
- The dough:
- 1. The dough should be tight but moist enough to bind together so that the chakli spirals don’t break when passed through the chakli maker. A tight dough will make sharp pretty spikes on the chakli spirals. Make it too soft and it will be too smooth and as a result, your chakli will not be so crunchy. It’s all about maximising the surface area exposed to the hot oil.
- 2. If the dough is too tight and breaks easily when passed through the chakli maker add a couple of teaspoons of water to the dough, knead and try again.
- 3. If the dough is too soft, add a couple of tablespoons of sifted rice flour and ground roasted gram and knead again.
- 4. It’s ok if the dough strand breaks occasionally. Simply add it back to the lump of dough.
- 5. The chakli dough should be left covered at all times. It has a tendency to dry out.
- 6. Forming a neat spiral whilst winding the chakli maker takes practice and patience. If making chakli for the first time, give yourself time to practice. If you persevere, after a few scruffy or broken efforts, you’ll soon be producing beautiful spirals.
- The frying oil:
- 1. Start frying only when the oil is hot. The oil temperature should be high (but not so high that it’s smoking) at the start of the frying process.
- 2. The oil temperature whilst frying should be optimum and steady. If it’s too hot, it will brown the chakli too quickly without cooking the inside. A good way to visually gauge whether the oil is too hot is if it starts smoking. At that point, turn the flame down to medium-low. Always test the oil temperature by first dropping a tiny bit of dough into the oil as mentioned in the recipe.
- 3. If the oil temperature is too low, the chakli will sink to the bottom of the kadhai rather than sizzling and rising to the top. It’ll come out greasy, soft, and undercooked. A top-tip to avoid this situation is to only fry a couple of chakli at a time. If you add too many at once, the oil temperature will drop suddenly.