[Update: Benne Murukku was featured on the kitchn on Oct 14 2011]
Back in the olden days, making Murukku traditionally was quite an elaborate affair. Short grain rice would be washed and allowed to dry spread out on a clean white cloth. When dried, it would then be stone ground in small handful batches to a fine powdery flour and the same repeated for roasted Urad dal/split Black gram as well. And the whole process would easily take couple of days before the actual making begins!
I know it verbatim because that was exactly how it was made in my grand dad’s house every year for the festival of Gokulashtami up until a decade ago. No wonder those murukkus were heavenly!
And little wonder why no one makes them that way these days..
Now we neither have the stone grinders, nor time or the patience and probably the stamina to stone grind as well, having been so used to all the luxuries of modern life.. Quite naturally my murukku making starts directly with store-bought rice and lentil flours and takes a fraction of the time it took for the traditional obsolete method.. And it turns out quite well too. But, stone grinding is quite an experience and exercise, take my word for it!
I learnt this recipe from my aunt who has been making lovely crispy white Murukku for years.
Benne which means Butter in Kannada is a key ingredient that results in this crispy crunchy typical South Indian snack.
Don’t stare me in the eye because I said ‘Butter’! I’d rather use real butter any day than dalda which is rather extinct even in grocery stores these days or hydrogenated vegetable oils or margarine. And since we don’t make murukkus every other day, I guess it should be ok to indulge once in a while…
One other time when Murukkus were almost certainly made in miniature sizes was on one of the ten days during the festival of Dasara or “Bombe Habba” (Doll Festival) as it is popularly known in Karnataka.
I could not arrange “Bombe/Gombe” for display here as my entire collection of traditional dolls sits boxed up in storage back home. So, last week, I visited the Meenakshi temple instead for a visual feast of the Bommai Golu and made Murukku at home to relive the sweet memories of those “never to come back” golden days of childhood..
Born in the royal city of Mysore, Dasara was no ordinary affair for us. As kids, it was a tradition during Dasara to go to each house in the neighborhood asking “Bombe koorsideera?” (kannada) meaning “Have you arranged the dolls?” visiting those who did. In return, we were given a handful of “Bombe Baageena” (kannada) ~ goodies in short. Murukku was an absolute kid’s favorite owing to its taste and portability.
Murukku or Chakli making might seem quite daunting at first. Once you try, you’ll know how easy it is and probably even repent why you never did all these days..
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup urad/black gram flour
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1/8 tsp or a pinch asafoetida / hing I prefer to use SSP/LG Hing
- 2 1/2 tbsp cold unsalted butter (or hot peanut oil)
- peanut oil for deep-frying
- Murukku/Chakli press - I use a bronze Murukku press
- disc with star at the centre comes with the Murukku press
- banana leaf /aluminium foil / parchment paper / wax sheet
- slotted ladle
Wash the Murukku press, assemble the disc and keep aside.
Dry roast urad flour on medium heat until fragrant and golden brown. Be careful not to burn it. Alternatively, dry roast urad dal until fragrant and golden brown and grind it to a fine flour in a mixer when cooled.
Sift the flours into a large mixing bowl and mix all the dry ingredients well. Cut in cold butter and mix well using your fingers until incorporated. If not using butter, heat oil to deep-frying temperature or until shimmering and not smoking (test - cumin seeds sizzle) and pour it onto the flour mix and blend. This procedure is called 'Saati"
When lightly pressed in your palm, this flour should hold shape without crumbling away. If not, adjust butter, mix and test again. The flour is ready to be mixed with water if it passes this test.
In a kadai / thick bottomed saucepan, heat oil for deep-frying so that oil is ready when Murukku is pressed and ready to be deep-fried. Keep the banana leaf /lining sheet of your choice ready.
Divide the buttered flour into two portions, keeping your working portion small so that when mixed, it should be the size of your fist. Sprinkling approx 2 tbsp of water at a time mix the working portion until it is soft, well mixed and holds good shape. The dough should neither be too wet nor too dry. If crumbs are falling off then it is too dry and too wet if the dough is sticky. When correctly mixed, even though it was sticky to start with, it should come off your palm and hold together. Shape the dough into a fist sized cylindrical roll.
Grease the insides of the press for the turning type and both inside and outsides for the pressing type of Murukku press. Doing this lets the dough slide easily inside the press. Fill the dough roll into the press and press onto a banana leaf or wet clean cloth or lining sheet of your choice in circular motion. Don't worry if the first few strands break or don't turn out perfectly like they should. The dough is quite forgiving, so if it breaks, just fix the ends or simply re-fill and press away.
To check the oil temperature, drop a tiny piece of dough. It should rise to the top as soon as it hits the bottom of the pan. If not, wait until the oil reaches the desired temperature and then switch heat to medium.
To transfer the murukkus into the deep-frying pan or kadai, slide one hand below the sheet holding on top of the murukku with the other palm, gently flip the sheet to transfer it into your other palm. secure the murukku with your thumb and gently slide it into the oil along the edge of the pan, palm facing down. Be quick to pull back your hand to avoid any oil spatter. If this is your first time, transfer the murukku as described onto a slotted ladle and slide the ladle into the oil and murukku will release itself.
Once murukku rises to the top, flip and deep fry until sizzling stops and the large number of tiny bubbles around the murukku die down to a few. Remove onto a tissue paper using the slotted ladle.
While the deep frying continues, press the next batch of murukkus and repeat.
Enjoy the "karrum - kurrum" as is or with cuppa of your choice!
Let cool and store in an air tight container. Stores well for at least 2 weeks.
For larger quantities, just remember the rice : lentil flour ratio is 4 : 1
Good crispy Murukku depends entirely on how the flour is mixed with butter then water and how it is fried (temperature). So pay more attention to those. Do not mix water to the entire flour.
Mix small portions at a time sprinkling couple of tbsp of water at a time
Do not press Murukku way ahead of deep frying as the dough dries out and easily breaks when deep-fried
If the dough is too dry, just dip your fingers in clean water and mix again until it comes to the right consistency.
The color of the Murukku depends on the temperature of the oil. For super crispy (not brittle) and white murukku, deep fry at medium to medium-high heat only.
Murukku/Chakli press is sold in almost all Indian grocery stores. I find the turning types less stressful on the hands than the pressing types. If you are having trouble getting the round shape, don't fret. With a little practice you should be just fine. Until then, you could even press the dough directly into the frying pan. Cut off the strands with your fingers when you want to stop.