A spicy lentil-filled snack enjoyed with a cup of masala chai
Dubai: The smell of freshly fried kachori – deep-fried puffed pastries with a spiced filling - is familiar if you visit an Indian bazaar (street market). If you let your senses guide you, the aroma of these savoury delights being prepared will take you right outside a sweet shop.
A halwai (confectioner) fries them in an open area, usually right outside the sweet shop, as people patiently wait to grab their share of freshly fried hot kachoris.
After a tiring shopping trip around the Indian street markets, the desire to dip a piece of kachori in some warm gravy and relish it always overcomes the hesitation from thoughts of the oil used or the calories.
It is a hot, savoury snack enjoyed even when it is cold. Yes, that’s right. Kachori tastes equally good at room temperature, unlike other deep-fried snacks like fritters and samosas. They make the perfect appetiser to serve if you are planning a gathering with your loved ones during the warm weather.
Gulf News Food team went on a food trivia hunt to find out about the kachori’s origin and popularity. According to an article published by The Indian Express, kachori was first made by the Marwaris (a community in the western Indian state of Rajasthan); they were the pioneers of trade and commerce. Like many other street foods, these savoury pastries evolved around such bazaars where traders needed to eat and drink - something quick yet filling.
We got in touch with two members from the UAE's Rajasthani expatriate community to learn more. Rajesh Maloo, the owner of Sagar Ratna, an Indian restaurant specialising in Rajasthani cuisine, explained: "I am from the state of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, which was formerly (before the Indian Independence) known as Marwar and the people who resided there were called Marwaris.
“Today, when we talk of Marwari cuisine, it essentially refers to the food from Jodhpur, of which pyaaz ki kachori (Kachori with spiced onion filling) ranks high in popularity, not just in India but across the globe amongst the Indian diaspora."
Usually served on its own, people enjoying kachori with spicy and sweet chutneys or a spiced potato gravy can be seen across eateries in India. Whether a plush restaurant or a humble eatery, kachori is a snack for everyone.
People will tell you that the one rule to eat kachori is to eat it piping hot and by dunking it in chutneys but ask a Marwari (a person from the Marwar community of Rajasthan), and they will tell you that is not always the case. "In Rajasthan, kachoris are had on their own without a side of chutneys or spiced gravy, like served in other Indian states. We just eat them on their own. Also, in terms of size, Jodhpuri kachori is comparatively larger in size as compared to kachoris available in other parts of India," said Maloo.
Apart from Rajasthan, there is another city where kachoris are famous - the ancient city of Kashi (present day Varanasi). There is a famous lane in this city called kachori galli near the famous Vishwanath temple, that serves the tastiest kachoris, explained Dubai-based Indian expatriate, Pranav Sharma.
He added: “The kachori in Varanasi is not how it is made in Rajasthan. It is made with a mixture of dal (lentil) and wheat flour, then fried into puris (puffed bread) and served with a mildly spiced potato gravy. Many eateries also add small pieces of cottage cheese or paneer to keep up with the food trends. The last time I visited Varanasi, a priest there took us on tour to show us the city's ancient shrines. Towards the end of the trip, as we were about to leave, he told us that we could not go without tasting the kachori of Kashi.”
In the Western city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Mawa kachori, also known as gujjias, with a silver varq (a fine filigree foil sheet of pure silver), is widespread. It is made with a filling of khoya or reduced dry milk, deep-fried and dipped in sugar syrup. This makes for a great snack to carry along on long journeys.
However, the pyaaz (onion) and hing (asafoetida) kachori made in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Uttar Pradesh uses ingredients that are not dependent on seasons.
A Rajasthani kachori includes thanda masala (spices with cooling properties) that essentially comprise dhaniya (coriander) and sounf (fennel), along with some turmeric powder, to beat the heat. Other ingredients like onions and potatoes are available all year round. Unlike the lilva kachoris from the western state of Gujarat that are filled with green pigeon peas or lilva and a winter snack.
Similarly, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, there is another version of kachori (often pronounced kochuri), popularly eaten for breakfast and paired with aloo matar dum or spicy potatoes and peas gravy. Unlike the Rajasthani kachoris, these deep-fried snacks are much softer and smaller, made with white flour (maida) and flavoured with asafoetida (hing).
Kallol Choudhary, a Dubai-based Bengali restaurant owner of Pinch of Spice, explained that it is known as koraishutir kochuri and is filled with spiced green peas. It is usually eaten in winter. Apart from the seasonal green peas kachori, there is another popular variety of these savoury snacks called - khasta kochuri. The word khasta here means crispy in the Indian language Hindi. Choudhary added: “In sweet shops across the state, you will find khasta kochuri, which consists of a spiced lentil filling and usually has no curry accompaniment. Much like the kachoris from New Delhi.” One of the reasons kachori is called khasta (crispy) colloquially is because of its unique texture on the outside. Deep-frying kachoris on a low medium flame results in a brown-coloured, crisp crust and hollow but well-cooked interior.
By preparing it bigger and crispier, you get another dish that goes by the name of bedmi poori, a popular breakfast in some parts of western Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi.
While kachori is primarily made with all-purpose flour or combined whole wheat flour, bedmi poori is made of coarse wheat flour, served with a spiced potato gravy, a side of seasonal pickle and sweet lassi (sweetened yoghurt-based drink) to go with it.
Samosas might be challenging to make at home, but that is not the case with kachoris. Following the steps can easily create a delicious batch of piping hot kachoris.
Chef Sawai Singh of Sagar Ratna restaurant shared a traditional recipe and the secret that makes Rajasthani kachori different. He said: "The secret to a Rajasthani kachori is the chillies we use, which is this region's most popular spice called mathania. Unlike many chillies, they are not bitter.” Here is a recipe he has been using for the past 15 years:
250 gms or 1 cup refined flour
4 gms or ½ tsp garam masala
2 gms or ½ tsp lemon juice
2 gms or ½ tsp black salt
10 gms or 3 tsp chilli powder
2 gms ½ tsp ajwain or carom seeds
2 gms or ½ tsp whole coriander
2 gms or ½ tsp mustard seeds
2 gms or ½ tsp cumin seeds
2 gms or ½ tsp fennel seeds
2 gms or ½ tsp hing powder or asafoetida
20 gms or 2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
5 gms or 1 tsp Indian chilli
150 gms or 2/3 cup of water
To knead the dough: Add flour, salt, carom seeds and clarified butter into a mixing bowl and knead. Mix until you get a mixture consistent enough to be rolled into a dough ball. Note: The dough should be stiff.
Cover it and let the dough rest for about 10 to 20 minutes. While the dough rests, prepare the filling for the kachori.
Chop onions, green chillies and mix them with boiled and mashed potatoes. Take a pan, heat oil in it and add asafoetida. Once it begins to sizzle, add the mashed potato and onion, mix with the spice powders and season it with salt.
Take the dough and lightly knead it onto a clean flat surface till it evens out. Divide the dough and the filling into an equal number of portions. In the meantime, place a cast iron pot or wok with oil on low heat. Simultaneously, roll one part of the dough into a smooth ball and flatten it into a three-inch circle. Place a portion of the filling in the centre. Bring all the edges, so they gather at the centre and seal the filling.
Flatten this stuffed ball into a three-inch circle with your fingers, and press gently to keep the filling intact. Keep aside and repeat this step for the rest of the dough.
Then, check that the oil is hot to start frying the kachoris.
Slowly slide into the oil in small batches (not more than 2 or 3) of kachoris on medium heat. Fry them for around 3 minutes, on both sides, until they turn golden in colour and are puffed up and crispy.
Scoop them out and place them on a kitchen towel to drain the excess oil. Serve warm. You can even pair them with chutneys if you like.
Do you have a story idea you would like to share with us? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Get Breaking News Alerts From Gulf News
We’ll send you latest news updates through the day. You can manage them any time by clicking on the notification icon.
This section is about Living in UAE and essential information you cannot live without.
Register to read and get full access to gulfnews.com