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February 09, 2010

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Gary Allen

The food historian world is, indeed, a small one -- and, as Michael noted we do seem to show up here from time to time. Your site is both beautiful and informative.

I come today with two questions, not answers.

First: I recently was given some Indian snacks that are remarkably like churros: they are piped with a star tip into hot fat, in relatively straight pieces about four inches long. They look like crinkle-cut french fries, but with the ridges running longitudinally. What makes them special are the cumin seeds in the batter. Do you know what they are called?

Second (and this is closely related to the "syringe" and "moorish" themes): Some time ago, I was given an antique kitchen tool from Indonesia. It works much like a potato ricer -- a wooden plunger forces batter through a perforated bit of brass. I don't know if the cooking liquid was water- or fat-based, but I suspect that it was fat (Indonesia is Islamic after all). The holes are tiny, which suggests that the resulting product would have a texture something like crisp angel-hair pasta, or possibly shredded wheat. Do you have any idea what the dish and tool are called?

Adam Balic

Hi Gary,

thanks for the comments about the blog, it has been great having so much imput on these topics and working through the origin of various dishes.

The Indian snacks are variously called Murukulu, Janthikalu or Chakli (and most likely other names). There are many variations on the recipe, but they are usually made with a pulse flour and maybe rice flour.

Which leads to the second question, as the Murukulu are made with a press/syringe/pump, often made of brass, especially the older examples (Google image search is useful here). In the English tradition these culinary syringes were sometimes called "Butter squirts" and used to squeeze out butter into fanciful shapes. But really it is a multi-purpose tool and used for all manner of things, especially fritters and biscuits.

I haven't seen the Indonesian version (Sri Owen would be the person to know), but it could related to the Indian snacks, or completely different. Indonesia has had a lot of different influences and could easily be Dutch, Portuguese, Indian, Chinese or Arabic in origin.

Fried foods seem to travel widely, along with sweet snacks, it is a facinating area that hasn't been explored to any great degree. I'm working on a post about another class of fritter that was common in the Europe during the medieval period, but now is found in Europe, Mexico and SE-Asia.

ken Albala

Talk about a small world!! I just thought let's see what Adam's up to. And it's still churros! Though I'm glad to see now the pets de nonnes come with a hole. I'd have my farts no other way!

Ken

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