Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thattai (Savory Rice & Lentil Crackers)

Thattais are traditional South Indian snacks made with rice and dal. They are part of the Bakshanam category of crispy snack foods which are similar to crackers. These are easy to prepare snacks that do not require any fancy equipment.

In the olden days, if people wanted to eat they had to prepare the food themselves; one did not (or could not even if they wanted to) buy ready-made snacks. So the elder ladies of the house gathered together to prepare savory snacks for the family. The best part of thattai making was the last batch of half-cooked Thattais - slightly crispy but still chewy - how we savored those special treats!

Amma made thattais often and stored them in stoneware crocks for morning tea or coffee or after-school snacks. Thattais are eaten plain by themselves; they do not require any accouterments. Rice flour, besan, urad flour, etc are readily available in Indian markets. Earth Balance is a vegan butter substitute.

The traditional flours for making thattais are rice and urad; but I like to use different flours and the corresponding dals for a change of pace.  Sometimes I use mung dal flour and yellow mung dal instead of the urad flour and chana dal;  other times I substitute besan for the urad flour. All are good but slightly different. Skinless uncooked peanuts may be substituted for the soaked dal. Sometimes thinly sliced hot green chiles are added to the dough for a spicy thattai.

Thattais get gobbled up quickly; the recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Thattais With Mung Flour & Mung Dal

20 Thattais


2 Tbsp Chana Dal
1 cup Rice flour
2-3 Tbsp Urad dal flour
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 pinch Asafetida
1/4 tsp ground hot red chiles
3/4 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp grated Coconut
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, chiffonade
1 tbsp coconut oil or Earth Balance Spread

Oil for deep frying


Soak the chana dal in hot water for about an hour.

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil and add the salt; let it dissolve and cool.

Combine the flours with the coconut oil or Earth Balance until well mixed.

Add the sesame, thoroughly drained dal, asafetida, chile, coconut, and curry leaves.

Pour the salt water (do not add any undissolved salt) into the dry ingredients and form a dough adding additional water (in tiny sprinkles) if necessary to form a pliable dough but not too soft.

Rinse a clean tea towel or a piece of muslin cloth, wring out thoroughly, and spread on the counter top or table. Alternately, use a plastic sheet.

Divide the dough into 20 small balls, and press into thin circles on the towel/plastic sheet without touching each other.

I place the dough balls about 2 to 3 inches apart and using a piece of cling film press with my fingers to flatten them to slightly less than the thickness of the dals in them. Using the cling film helps to flatten the thattais quickly as it prevents the dough from sticking to the fingers; you may use food safe gloves also.

Using a fork. tooth pick, or a thin skewer, prick the thattais in a few spots.

Heat a kadai or pan with oil for deep frying on medium low heat.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, remove the dough circles carefully and slip into the oil gently; 4 or 5 might fit nicely without crowding the oil depending on the size of the pan.

Keep the heat medium-low so that the thattais do not brown too fast; it should take about 3 to 4 minutes total for each batch to become crisp.  Cook the thattais until golden and flip to cook the other side.

Remove from oil when the bubbling and noise subside and thattais turn golden.

Drain on paper towels and allow to cool; thattais will become crisp as they cool.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

Thattais will last for about 3 weeks - only if you hide away a few :) to bring out later!

Serve with generous mugs of  tea, coffee or other beverages.  Enjoy!!

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