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What Is Murukku?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

Murukku is an Indian savory snack most popular in India’s southernmost states. It is made by combining rice flour and black bean flour into a paste. Cooks form that paste into a spiral or wheel shape, then deep fry it in oil. Most murukku is spiced with chili, cumin, or onion powder. It is a staple of most South Indian homes and is also widely available for sale from roadside vendors throughout India. Some commercial producers have also begun marketing factory-made versions of the snack, both in India and throughout Europe and North America.

Indian culinary culture features a wide array of snacks and appetizer-type dishes. Savory snacks, like murukku, are known as chaat. Simple to make and easy to transport, Murukku is a traditional treat associated with the Hindu Deepavali, or Diwali, festival. Deepavali is a five day “festival of lights” that happens each year in late October. It is primarily a time for families to join together, and the sharing of snacks and sweets is a big part of most celebrations.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

Most Indians eat murukku year-round, not just during festival time. Families tend to have favorite ways of preparing the snack, which is often served with tea, packed in children’s lunches, and offered to visitors. The ingredients can vary somewhat, but the shape — usually a tight spiral — is one of this chaat's most characteristic features.

Murukku ingredients typically include rice flour, black bean flour known as urad flour, butter, water, and salt and any other spices. The most traditional way of getting these flours to slow-roast rice and beans, then grind them into a powder. This can be very time intensive, and as a result many cooks purchase the flour pre-ground. All of the ingredients are combined into a doughy paste.

The earliest versions of the snack were rolled by hand, first into long snakes, then into flat spirals. More modern cooks often use specially-made murukku molds or presses. These tools press the dough into textured ropes, which can be dropped directly onto trays in spirals simply by rotating either the mold or the tray. The finished products are then deep fried, usually in coconut oil, until crispy.

Possible variations are almost countless. Many cooks add green lentils or other beans to the snack, bringing it more in line with traditional legume dishes. Minced vegetables, particularly chilies and hot peppers, can also be added. The finished products can also be dusted with sesame seeds or coarse salt just after they are pulled from the oil.

Murukku are a snack beloved by Indians all over the world. Indian communities in the United States, Canada, and throughout Europe have introduced the snack to a very diverse group of people. In some areas, particularly in the UK, commercially produced murukku are often sold alongside potato chips and other processed snack foods. Most UK consumers know both processed and fresh forms of the snack as chakli. Chakli is the Gujariti word for murukku.

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