There is no Indian Christmas without the humble Kal Kal – a cardamom flavoured deep-fried cookie that is crisp on the outside and cake-like on the inside.
Christmas is my favourite time of the year – I would put up the Christmas tree in March if I could – because it is the only time when grown-ups are allowed (encouraged) to act like children!
While cookies, hot chocolate, reindeer and snow flakes herald in the spirit of Christmas in the West, those of us in India (where there’s neither reindeer nor snow) have our own version of Christmas – and it’s just as fun and merry as it is anywhere else in the world!
The Dawson Family Christmas
We each have separate chores this season – My dad and I fashion the crib/manger for the Holy Family, decorate the tree and the house, my mother fills our home with an endless array of food (to be eaten and shared), and my little brother is required to stay out of everyone’s way and try to exercise restraint in stealing food from the kitchen!
There are no fresh-cut evergreen trees in India, so we just bring down a plastic tree from storage, but hey! it’s just as fun and merry, ok!. I always sing-along to Jim Reeves’s 12 Songs of Christmas as my Dad and I set up the tree, and fashion a manger for baby Jesus. No matter how many boxes of decorations there are, we always seem to find room on the tree for more, so we end up adding each year. And the star that goes outside the house – we lose it every year, buy a new one each year and end up misplacing that one too! We probably have like thousands of stars in boxes all over the house! That night, we turn off all the lights save the ones on the tree and the 4 of us huddle on the couch just watching the serial lights dance. No one talks. We just enjoy the silent company in the realization that Christmas has come home, once again!
But despite the awesomeness of a fully decorated tree, it isn’t really Christmas until the Christmas cake is baked. We all pitch in to make large (and several) batches of fruit cake, walnut cake, chocolate cake and brownies – all of us measuring or sifting or whisking or chopping nuts! It’s my favourite day of the year – not just because of the unusually large number of cakes lying around the house, but because it’s when we feel most close together as a family.
What’s a Kal Kal?
Amidst the host of cakes and brownies this season, is one humble cookie – the Kal Kal. If you are neither an Indian Christian nor have Indian Christian friends, chances are, you can’t possibly have heard of it. Because Kal Kal is a very specific cookie made by Christians in India only during Christmas.
No one really knows about the origins of the elusive Kal Kal, but my guess is that it was likely inspired by something the Portuguese brought with them when they landed in India. Baking isn’t really a part of the Indian heritage kitchens, so the locals probably found a way to deep-fry the same dough, creating the Kal Kal – a deep-fried cardamom flavoured cookie that is crisp on the outside but soft and cake-like on the inside.
Making Kal Kal is undeniably a family/group activity – the more the merrier. These suckers need to be hand rolled individually, so once the dough is ready, gather the troops, sit around the table and roll away while one sad person (Mom) stands over the stove frying them up.
And why is it called a Kal Kal anyway? My bet is, they named it after the sounds it makes as it rattles in it’s storage container – although in our home we joke about how it probably got its name because it’s so easy to mess up the recipe and make the result hard and stone-like (the tamil word for stone is ‘kal’)
Making Kal Kal
Which brings us to ‘how NOT to mess up the Kal Kal‘ – because as awesome as it is when made right, it truly sucks when made wrong.
First off, don’t be too hard while kneading the dough. Rub the ingredients between your fingertips (much like making pie-dough) till you get a crumbly-mixture. Then add just enough water to form a dough. Let it rest covered for 10 minutes.
To get the perfect ‘swirls’ be sure to roll each piece of dough in your palms – it melts the butter and sugar. And don’t forget to wipe the fork on a wet napkin and grease slightly with oil too!
All that’s left to do, is fry ’em up! Medium – Low heat, and keep stirring to prevent burning. You’re done when it’s golden brown all around.
Enjoy! And Merry Christmas to you and yours!
This recipe was posted as part of the Second annual International Cookie Exchange hosted by Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere.
You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #IntnlCookies, and you can find these great recipes and more cookies from around the world on the International Cookie Exchange Pinterest Board.
- From France: Palatable Pastime – Sablés
- From Germany: Cindy’s Recipes and Writing – Lebkuchen (Spiced Molasses Cookies)
- From Greece: Cooking the Globe – Kourabiedes
- From India: Love Is In My Tummy – Kal Kal
- From Iraq: Caroline’s Cooking – Kleicha (Iraqi Date Cookies)
- From Italy: An Italian In My Kitchen – Cranberry Almond Biscotti
- From Italy: Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Ricciarelli
- From Poland: A Day in the Life on the Farm – Rogaliki
- From Scotland: The Redhead Baker – Cranberry Orange Shortbread
- From Serbia: Curious Cuisiniere – Vanilice (Little Filled Vanilla Cookies)
- From Switzerland: Tara’s Multicultural Table – Basler Brunsli (Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies)
- From Venezuela: Five Senses Palate – Coquitos