Dubai: The smell of freshly fried kachori – deep-fried puff pastries with a spicy filling – is familiar if you visit an Indian bazaar (street market). If you let your senses be your guide, the aroma of these savory treats being prepared will take you right past a confectionery.
A Hawaii (pastry chef) fry them in an open space, usually just outside the confectionery, while people wait patiently to take their share of freshly fried hot kachoris.
After a tiring shopping spree in Indian street markets, the desire to dip a piece of kachori in a hot sauce and savor it always overcomes the hesitation of thoughts about the oil used or the calories.
It is a hot and tasty snack appreciated even when it is cold. Yes, it’s true. Kachori is just as good at room temperature, unlike other fried snacks like donuts and samosas. They make the perfect appetizer to serve if you’re planning a get-together with your loved ones on a warm day.
Kachoris and bazaars
The Gulf News Food team embarked on a culinary trivia hunt to uncover the origin and popularity of kachori. 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 savory pastries have evolved around such bazaars where traders needed to eat and drink – something quick but hearty.
We reached out to two members of the UAE Rajasthan expat community to find out more. Piyush Maloo, the owner of Sagar Ratna, an Indian restaurant specializing in Rajasthani cuisine, explained, “I come from the state of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, which was formerly (before India’s independence) known as name of Marwar and the people who resided there were called Marwaris.”
“Today, when we talk about marwari cuisine, it basically refers to the food of Jodhpur, of which pyaaz ki kachori (Kachori stuffed with spicy onions) is very popular, not only in India but all over the world among the Indian diaspora.”
Usually served on its own, people enjoying spicy and sweet kachori chutneys or spicy potato sauce can be seen in restaurants in India. Whether it’s a lavish restaurant or a modest restaurant, kachori is a snack for everyone.
Today, when we talk about Marwari cuisine, it basically refers to the food of Jodhpur, whose pyaaz ki kachori (Kachori stuffed with spicy onion) is very popular, not only in India but all over the world among the Indian diaspora.
People will tell you that the only rule for eating kachori is to eat it very hot and dip it in chutneys, but ask a marwari (a person from the Marwar community in Rajasthan), and they will tell you that is not always the case. “In Rajasthan, kachoris are served on their own without any accompaniment of chutneys or spicy sauce like those served in other Indian states. We eat them on their own. Also, in terms of size, Jodhpuri kachori is comparatively larger in size compared to kachoris available in other parts of India,” Maloo said.
A route named after kachori
Besides Rajasthan, there is another city where kachoris are famous – the ancient city of Kashi (now Varanasi). There is a famous alley in this town called kachori galli near the famous Vishwanath temple, which serves the tastiest kachoris, said Dubai-based Indian expat Pranav Sharma.
He added, “Kachori in Varanasi is not like it is done in Rajasthan. It is made from a mixture of dal (lentil) and wheat flour, then fried in pure (puffed bread) and served with a slightly spicy potato sauce. Many restaurants also add small pieces of cottage cheese or paneer to follow dietary trends. The last time I visited Varanasi, a priest took us on a tour to show us the ancient shrines of the city. Towards the end of the trip, as we were about to leave, he told us that we couldn’t leave without tasting Kashi’s kachori.
The last time I visited Varanasi, a priest took us on a tour to show us the ancient shrines of the city. Towards the end of the trip, as we were about to leave, he told us that we couldn’t leave without tasting Kashi’s kachori
– Pranav Sharma
The different kinds of kachoris
In the western city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Mawa kachori, also known as gujjiaswith a silver medal varq (a thin filigree aluminum foil of pure silver), is widespread. It is made with a filling of khoya or powdered milk reduced, fried and soaked in sugar syrup. This makes it a great snack to take on long trips.
However, the pyaaz (onion) and hing (asafoetida) kachori made in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and parts of Uttar Pradesh uses ingredients that are not seasonally dependent.
A Rajasthani kachori includes Thanda Masala (spices with refreshing properties) which essentially include dhaniya (coriander) and sound (fennel), with a little 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 which 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 cochuri), commonly eaten for breakfast and accompanied by aloo matar dum or spicy sauce with potatoes and peas. Unlike Rajasthani kachoris, these fried snacks are much softer and smaller, made with white flour (housemaid) and flavored with asafoetida (hing).
Kallol Choudhary, owner of Dubai-based Bengali restaurant Pinch of Spice, explained that he is known as koraishutir kochuri and is filled with spicy green peas. It is usually eaten in winter. Besides seasonal green pea kachori, there is another popular variety of these savory snacks called – khasta kochuri. Word khasta here means crispy in the indian language hindi. Choudhary added, “In candy stores across the state, you’ll find khasta kochuri, which consists of a spicy lentil garnish and usually has no curry accompaniment. A bit like the kachoris of New Delhi. One of the reasons why kachori is called khasta (crispy) is colloquially due to its unique texture on the outside. Frying kachoris over medium heat yields a crispy brown-colored crust and a hollow but well-cooked interior.
Kachori took another turn
By making it bigger and crispier, you get another dish called Bedmi Pooria popular breakfast in parts of western Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi.
While kachori is mostly made with all-purpose flour or combined whole-wheat flour, Bedmi Poori is made with coarse wheat flour, served with a spicy potato sauce, a side of seasonal pickle and sweet lassi (sweetened yoghurt-based drink) to accompany it.
In confectioneries across the state, you’ll find khasta kochuri, which is a spicy lentil filling and usually doesn’t have a curry accompaniment, much like New Delhi’s kachoris.
Make kachoris at home
Samosas can be tricky to make at home, but that’s not the case with kachoris. By following the steps, you 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 of a Rajasthani kachori lies in the chillies we use, which are the most popular spice in this region called Mathania. Unlike many peppers, they are not bitter. Here is a recipe he has been using for 15 years:
The secret of a Rajasthani kachori lies in the chillies we use, which is the most popular spice in this region called mathania. Unlike many peppers, they are not bitter.
– Chief Sawai Singh
Onion or pyaaz kachori:
250 g or 1 cup refined flour
750 g or 3 boiled potatoes
4g or ½ tsp garam masala
2g or ½ tsp lemon juice
2g or ½ tsp black salt
10 g or 3 teaspoons chilli powder
5 g 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2g ½ tsp ajwain or carom seeds
2 g or ½ teaspoon whole coriander
2g or ½ tsp mustard seeds
2g or ½ tsp cumin seeds
2g or ½ tsp fennel seeds
2g or ½ tsp hing or asafoetida powder
20g or 2 tbsp clarified butter or ghee
5 g or 1 teaspoon Indian chilli
150 g or 2/3 cup of water
To knead the dough: Add the flour, salt, carom seeds and clarified butter to a mixing bowl and knead. Mix until the mixture is thick enough to roll into a ball of dough. Note: The dough should be firm.
Cover and let the dough rest for about 10 to 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the filling for the kachori.
Chop onions, green peppers and mix them with boiled and mashed potatoes. Take a saucepan, heat the oil in it and add the asafoetida. Once it starts to sizzle, add the mashed potatoes and onion, mix with the spice powders and season with salt.
Take the dough and knead it lightly on a flat, clean surface until it is uniform. Divide the dough and filling into an equal number of portions. Meanwhile, place a cast iron pot or wok with oil over low heat. Simultaneously, roll some of the dough into a smooth ball and flatten it into a three-inch circle. Place part of the filling in the center. Bring all the edges together, so they gather in the center and seal the filling.
Flatten this stuffed ball into a three-inch circle with your fingers and gently press down to keep the filling intact. Set 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 small amounts (no more than 2 or 3) of kachoris into the oil over medium heat. Fry them for about 3 minutes, on both sides, until golden, puffed and crispy.
Remove them and place them on a kitchen towel to drain the excess oil. Serve hot. You can even accompany them with chutneys if you wish.
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