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Monday, September 23, 2019

Aakukoora Pappu Chekkalu

 We have entered the final week of mega marathon where all the participants are going to try the same regional snack recipes, adding any twists if they wish, for the next eight days. The first one selected in this series was Andhra's pappu chekkalu which have similar dishes in the other southern states - the nippattu of Karnataka and Tamil nadu's thattai. There are minor variations in each preparation and all are basically fried crisps made with rice flour. I grew up in Karnataka and my husband is from Rayalaseema of Andhra region and so we end up calling these nippattu at home. Some of the variations I posted before are below.

Pepper flavored Miriyala Chekkalu 
Karnataka style Nippattu 
Andhra style Pappu Chekkalu 

Andhra and Karnataka versions mostly use rice flour alone whereas in case of thattai, a small quantity of other flours also go in. Karnataka versions usually has coarsely crushed hurigadale / chutney dal and peanuts to add some crunch while Andhra version usually has soaked senaga pappu / Bengal gram. The word 'pappu' refers to the legume (Bengal gram) used in the recipe. Mostly dry chili powder goes into nippattu and thattai recipes where as green chillie paste goes into chekkalu recipe. Some add sesame seeds for flavor. They are just the basic guide lines and nowadays the tidbits are added to one's liking. 

This is the most commonly prepared snack in our home like any other south Indian's but I ended up preparing them twice for this marathon. I wanted to try a variation with moong dal which I had earlier bookmarked and they ended up being rock hard. I forgot about another version that I wanted to try with peanut flour and prepared this version adding aakukoora / greens. Any chopped seasonal greens may be added. Don't make them with methi / fenugreek greens alone which would turn them bitter. Add some chopped cilantro and curry leaves as well. There are also new version chekkalu with various millet flours which I haven't tried yet. 

'Chekka' literally means wood though the term here means crispy one and chekkalu is the plural word for chekka. Properly made chekkalu would be crispy and crunchy. Under fried ones would turn softer and over fried versions would turn harder. Heating oil to the correct temperature is essential. To know whether the oil is hot enough, drop a pinch of the dough into the hot oil. If it sizzles and comes to the surface, the oil is hot enough to fry. If the dough sinks to the bottom, the oil needs some more heating. Don't bring the oil to a smoking point. Once the oil is hot enough, drop the dough circles into the hot oil and lower the heat. The heat should be somewhere between low and medium setting while frying. If the chekkalu are frying faster then it usually means that frying temperature needs to be a little lower since they quickly brown and won't turn crispy. Before adding a new batch of dough discs, make sure that oil is hot enough (as at the beginning) but lower the flame during the frying part.
Store bought rice flour works fine for chekkalu / nippattu and that's what I use to prepare them. The edges of chekkalu may break since it is made with rice flour. One can fix it by joining the cracks with fingers while patting them but I don't do it usually. The chekkalu are not as thick as they seem to be in the closeup shots I have taken. If the chekkalu are made with chili powder they look brownish and when green chili paste is used, they would be lighter in color.

Ingredients: (Yield 16- 18)
1.5 cups rice flour
Salt to taste
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 cup chopped mixed greens*
2 green chillies, finely chopped or ground to paste
A handful of soaked chana dal / Bengal gram
2 tbsp. hot oil
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. warm water
Oil for deep frying (I used canola oil.)
* Add any chopped greens along with a sprig of finely chopped curry leaves. Avoid adding bitter greens like methi / fenugreek greens. I made one batch with methi which turned bitter.

* Rinse and soak Bengal gram for an hour or two. Drain the water and keep them aside.
* Heat oil in a deep frying pan / kadai on medium flame, when ready to make chekkalu.
* Combine flour, salt, cumin seeds in a mixing bowl. Add chopped greens, chillies and soaked Bengal gram in a mixing bowl. Pour about 2 tbsp. hot oil and mix it. Be careful since the oil is hot. Add water gradually to make a dough of thick consistency. (Most of the times I add water at room temperature and that's fine too.)
* Drop a pinch of the dough into the hot oil. If it sizzles and comes to the surface, the oil is hot enough to fry. If the dough sinks to the bottom, the oil needs some more heating. Don't bring the oil to a smoking point.  
* Take a small lemon sized portion of dough and place it on a thick, greased plastic sheet (such as a ziploc bag) or a wax paper. Flatten the ball with your fingers and press it to a thin disc of about 3 inches in diameter. 

* Take the plastic sheet with the disc on in your left hand palm, with the disc being on the top side. Open your right hand palm with no gaps between your fingers and gently reverse the disc on to your right hand. (To be precise, onto your fingers and not on the palm.) Gently peel away the sheet from the disc so that the disc is in your right hand now. 
* Gently drop the flattened dough disc into the hot oil. Without overcrowding the pan, fit as many discs as you can to fry. Deep fry the discs until they turn light golden in color both sides. Keep the flame somewhere between low and medium flame while frying. Remove them with a slotted spoon onto absorbent towels. 
* Repeat the procedure until all the dough is finished. Before adding a new batch of dough discs, make sure that oil is hot enough (as at the beginning) but lower the flame during the frying part. Also remember to grease the plastic sheet every time with 1- 2 drops of oil, before making a disc.
* Cool and store the fried chekkalu in an airtight container. They stay fresh for weeks and are good accompaniment for coffee / tea.

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Amara’s cooking said...

That's a nice idea to add mixed greens to chekkalu. Love the way they turned out.

Harini R said...

Good idea to add greens in there. How many ever we make they are poof gone in a flash. I had an idea to add kasuri methi but somehow dropped that idea.

Srivalli said...

Excellent version Suma. I enjoyed reading your intro and how nice that we have so many versions and ways to make the same dish. Peanut billalu was a common one growing up, where ground peanut flour was added along with crushed peanuts. It used to taste out of the world. Will be trying your recipe sometime.

sushma said...

Chekkalu with greens have turned out very nice. Very well done.

Narmadha said...

Adding greens make it more healthy and nutritious. Very detailed and clearly explained recipe. Thanks for sharing