What Is Anarsa?

Angie Bates
Angie Bates
Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

Anarsa is a type of Indian pastry traditionally served during the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali. Considered a snack, anarsa are crispy cookie-shaped discs made with rice, sugar, and poppy seeds. Although anarsa are simple to make, the snack normally requires at least seven days preparation.

Rice and jaggery, a type of unrefined sugar common to Africa and India, are the main ingredients in anarsa. Poppy seeds are also included. A small amount of milk is usually added as well. Although oil can be used to fry the anarsa, ghee, a type of butter, is most often used.

To make anarsa, the rice is first soaked for three days. Each day the water is changed to keep it fresh. The rice is then rinsed and allowed to air dry, usually for a few hours. Once dried, it is ground into a powder and then sieved, like flour. Older rice, rather than fresh, is best used for this purpose.

The jaggery should be finely grated, but if jaggery is unavailable, powdered sugar can be used instead. Sugar is mixed thoroughly with the powdered rice. Then the mixture is covered and set aside for four to six days. Some versions suggest adding a small amount of milk in order to make a dough during this step, but most do not. Occasionally, a version may only allow the mixture to sit for a few hours.

After the mixture has rested, small amounts of milk are added and it is kneaded into a smooth dough. Once the dough is thoroughly kneaded, it is broken into small balls. The exact size of the balls varies slightly, some versions calling for golf ball-sized pieces, others for more egg-sized portions.

Poppy seeds are then spread onto a flat surface and the dough balls are pressed into the seeds. Each ball will end up as an approximately cookie-shaped disc with seeds coating only one side. When all the balls are pressed flat and coated, they can be fried.

Frying anarsa is done over a low flame or medium-low heat because of its tendency to break if cooked to quickly. The anarsa are placed, in batches, poppy seed side up, in a pan with ghee and are fried until they are golden. They are not flipped, but ghee is spooned over the top as they cook. Once golden, they are allowed to drain and cool, usually for up to five or six hours, until they are crispy.

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