Friday, August 26, 2011
Cheedais are unique to Tamil Nadu and Kerala and are synonymous with Gokulashtami (Ashtami Rohini/ Sree Krishna Jayanthi). These crunchy, yummy marble sized balls are liked by young and old and are very easy to prepare. Having said that, I must caution that things could go wrong even for an experienced cheedai maker. Instead of the crunchy crispies, one might end up with soft, chewy cheedais. Another thing that could go wrong in cheedai making is that the cheedais might explode when dropped into hot oil which can be quite hazardous. First time cheedai makers should make sure that little children are out of range and preferably, there is another adult present at home.
I have had a very bad experience while making cheedais. The very first time I made cheedais on my own was when both our children were under 3 years of age. Hubby dear was out of town on work and on Gokulashtami day, I decided to make cheedais for our unnikrishnans (little krishnans - our babies). Those were not the days of internet - no google search for cheedai recipes. We did not even have a telephone to call home and ask for recipes, like our younger son does these days. But we had very friendly neighbours who were ever ready to lend a helping hand. Since I was the youngest occupant in the building, Komala mami and Lakshmi mami were always giving me tips on running the household. So, memorizing the recipe given by them, I ventured to make cheedais on my own. Our elder son, all of 2-1/2 years of age, was ever ready to help me. Our younger son was tied to his post, or else he too would crawl and come to help me. So, whenever I had some work I did not want the baby to crawl into, I would tie a long string to his aranjan (this is a black cord tied to the waist of the babies on the 28th day) and tie the other end to the window grill, so that he would be free to move around the room, but not crawl into the kitchen or bathroom. His anna (elder brother) would keep him company.
Cheedais were made and were ready to be deep fried. Having warned our elder son not to come into the kitchen to help me, I started putting the cheedais into the hot oil. Within seconds they started exploding spraying hot oil all around. Our elder son, the all time joker those days, came running to see crackers bursting in the kitchen and also called out to his brother saying, "Nandu, come and see, amma is bursting crackers inside the kitchen". I had the presence of mind to switch off the stove and to send our son with an SOS to call Komala mami and Lakshmi mami. He wouldn't budge as the crackers were still bursting. I said, "Go tell mamis that mummy has crackers inside the kitchen". He immediately ran upstairs and brought the mamis, who said not to worry and to abort the cheedai making. "Make dosas with the dough", they said.
I have been making cheedais every year since then and they have never exploded. I was surprised when my sister-in-law said her cheedais exploded this year, as she is an expert in making these deep fried goodies. This was one of the reasons I did not post cheedai recipe earlier, because I did not want our over enthusiastic younger son to try making cheedais with a little baby around.
There are 2 types of cheedais, savoury and sweet. We will have the recipe for savoury cheedais first.
Over to the recipe.
Rice flour : 1 cup
Urad dal powder : 2 tsp
Grated coconut: 2 tbsp
Butter: 2 tsp
Hing powder: 1/4 tsp
Jeera: 1/2 tsp
Black pepper: 1 tsp
Curry leaves: a few
Salt to taste
Oil to deep fry
Most of the crunchy snacks in Tamil Nadu and Kerala have Urad dal powder as the main ingredient, which gives the dish the crunchiness, if used in the right proportion.
Dry roast 1 cup of urad dal to a light pink color at which time a nice aroma will arise out of it. Cool and powder it in an absolutely dry grinder. Seive this powder twice to make sure that the powder is absolutely fine without any grains (Presence of grains in the powder is one of the causes of exploding cheedais). This powder can be stored in an air tight container for up to a year and used when ever necessary.
Seive the rice flour twice again to make sure there are no grains in the flour. Dry roast the rice flour in low heat for 5 minutes.
Dry grind the coconut, jeera, pepper, curry leaves, hing and salt to a coarse consistency. Mix the rice flour and urad dal powder well. Rub in the butter. Add the ground coconut mixture and knead to a soft dough adding water if necessary. The ground coconut mixture will add some greasiness to the dough, so add water very carefully. Make marble sized balls of the dough.
Once all the dough is shaped into balls, heat oil in a wide kadai. When the oil starts smoking, reduce the heat and put a handful of the balls into the hot oil. Keep away from the stove and watch for any explosion. Increase the heat after 2 minutes and when the balls turn light brown in color, remove from oil. Repeat until all the balls are fried.
To test the cheedais, press one cheedai in your palm. If the cheedai breaks softly and the inside is fried, it is done. It will turn crunchy when cold. Store in air tight tins.
Have a safe cheedai making session!