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Kuzhalappam, a crunchy traditional snack of Kerala

At present, I am staying at a place in Guruvayur, a municipal temple town in Thrissur district, Kerala. The empty streets with no activities reminded me of my childhood days.

Kuzhalappam, a crunchy traditional snack of Kerala
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Chennai

Every year, my family used to visit Guruvayur to seek the blessings of Lord Krishna. We always stayed in a cottage built aesthetically with wooden pillars, carved doorways and red-tiled sloping roof. The cottages were close to the main Guruvayur temple which had visitors thronging from all parts of the world. The wayside colourful shops offered life-like statues of Lord Krishna; there were many snack shops that served hot banana chips, jackfruit halwa and kuzhalappam among other special savouries. As a child, I was captivated by the temple scenes — which captured all emotions and colours of life one could envisage. This is the only place where I never spotted a beggar or a homeless person lurking on the sides of the street.

Guruvayur is a town rich in folklore and legend with a tapestry of stories woven into its very existence. The temple was built in the 14th century, encased in stories and mythologies handed down from one generation to another.

There were two popular stories -- one is the story about the elephant besotted with Guruvayurappan and another is the story of a poet who was cured of his ailments as he wrote hymns praising Lord Krishna. There are timeless myths surrounding the origin of the temple. It is believed that Guru, the teacher of the Gods, and Vayu, Lord of the Winds, rescued the child-sized idol of Lord Narayana from a flood that submerged Dwarka, where the idol was originally worshipped by Lord Krishna. They brought the statue to the present place which had already been sanctified by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva graciously moved to a nearby place called Mammiyoor leaving behind what is now known as Guruvayur for Lord Narayana’s idol, now revered as Guruvayurappan Temple.

During our visits, a person called Madhavan served us delicious snacks. For him, we were ‘Bombay Kili’ meaning birds from Bombay (where we were living then). His snacks included achappam and kuzhalappam and those were our favourites. The flute of Lord Krishna was used as a model for this dish called kuzhalappam. The sacred temple visits, the beautiful people of Kerala, the unique food and snacks occupy a special space in my heart. Today, I am sharing kuzhalappam recipe to try at home.

INGREDIENTS
Raw rice flour: 1½ cup | Black sesame seeds: 1 tsp | Cumin seeds: 3/4 tsp | Salt to taste | Water: 1½ cup | Almonds: peeled and crushed 2 tbsp | Coconut oil: 2 cups | Grated coconut: 1 small cup | Pearl onions: 6 no | Garlic: 1 clove | Ginger juice: ¼ tsp 

METHOD
  • Grind together coconut, almond, onion, ¼ tsp cumin and garlic to a smooth paste
  • In a saucepan, add 1½ cup of water, salt and bring to a boil. Let it simmer on low flame and switch off
  • Dry roast the rice flour in a pan, stirring continuously until a nice aroma comes for about 5 minutes on medium heat
  • Then add the coconut paste into the roasted rice flour, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, sesame seeds and mix well on a low flame for 2 min
  • Remove the rice mixture and boiling water from heat
  • Pour ½ cup of boiling water over the mixture and set aside for 4-5 min
  • Add the remaining warm water little by little into the rice mixture, knead well and make a soft dough
  • Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed deep pan. Once the oil is hot, reduce heat to low-medium 
  • Now take small portions out of the dough and roll it into a ball. Cover the remaining dough with a damp paper towel
  • Place a lightly oiled plastic sheet on the working surface
  • Place the dough ball on it. Then cover it with another lightly oiled plastic sheet 
  • Now gently roll it into a thin sheet using a rolling pin
  • Remove the upper plastic sheet. Using a 3-inch diameter round cookie cutter, make small rounds out of the flattened rice sheet
  • Carefully remove the rounds from the plastic sheet 
  • Wrap it into a cylinder shape with the help of a small round rod or lightly oiled index finger of the non-dominant hand. Seal the edges properly 
  • Drop the prepared kuzhalappam in hot oil and fry until crispy. Stir in between for even frying 
  • Remove from oil using a perforated spoon and transfer to a paper towel
  • Continue the process with the rest of the dough Cool completely, store in a dry airtight container. It will last for 1 month at least 

— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’

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