South Indian Spicy Nut and Puffed Rice Snack (Chudwa)
Chudwa, sometimes called chevda, is for South Indians what trail-mix is for us. It's a blend of nuts, dried fruit, puffed rice and various typical Indian spices.
It's very easy to make, but like eggrolls, it's time-consuming. It's a big production. One of my sisters-in-law is in charge of assembling the ingredients. My mother-in-law is the one frying the puffed rice flakes. One other sister's job is to sprinkle the spices as soon as the ingredients are out of the oil. My job is to toss the whole thing and, last but not least, the other 2 younger sisters' job is to taste. It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
Yields: about 20 servings2 cups fresh curry leaves, cut in thirds with shears
25 green chiles, stemmed and sliced
2 whole red Thai bird chiles, stemmed
1 pound peanuts, blanched
1 pound cashew nuts
1 pound almonds, blanched and halved
1-1/2 pounds golden raisins
sugar, to taste
salt, to taste
citric acid, to taste
turmeric powder, to taste
red chili powder, to taste
160 fluid ounces canola oil
2 (2-lb) packages parched rice (see tips)
Line 6 (19.5" x 14.5" x 2.75") aluminum foil pans with super-absorbent paper towels.
Heat about 1/3 cup of oil in a small saucepan. When the oil is hot and bubbly, add the curry leaves, whole red Thai chiles and the chopped green chiles. As soon as the curry leaves and chiles are nicely coated with oil, lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes, until the green chiles are brown (not black, don't burn them!). Set aside.
Heat about 4 cups of oil in a medium-sized saucepan. When the oil is hot and bubbly, put the peanuts into a strainer and place the strainer in the oil. Cook until the peanuts are slightly brown for about 4 minutes. Remove as much oil as possible. Transfer to one aluminum foil pan. Immediately add the raisins and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of citric acid and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt. Toss well.
Dry roast the almonds until they are nicely golden. Transfer to the same aluminum foil pan used for the peanuts. Immediately add the cashew nuts and sprinkle about 1/4 cup of sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoon of citric acid, 1/8 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Toss well and set aside.
Using the same oil, wait until the oil is hot and bubbly and put one cup of parched rice into the strainer. Place the strainer in the oil and fry the rice over high heat. It'll become puffed rice instantly (about 3-5 seconds). Remove the strainer from the oil. Drain as much oil as possible. Transfer to another aluminum foil pan. Immediately sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of citric acid, 1/8 teaspoon red chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder.
At this point, it becomes very repetitive. Fry one cup of parched rice at a time. Season with the same spices (2 tablespoons sugar, 3/4 teaspoon of citric acid, 1/8 teaspoon red chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder).
When everything is ready, combine the puffed rice, nuts and raisins into 3 new aluminum foil pans. Add the chiles and curry leaves mix with as little oil as you can. Toss well using two large spatulas. Taste. You want to make sure the mix is properly seasoned (sweet, sour, slightly salted and a bit of heat at the end).This recipe yields 2-1/2 (19.5" x 14.5" x 2.75") aluminum foil pans. It's perfect for serving large groups.
Serve with a cup of masala chai.
Time to turn on the TV, call all your family and friends and watch an Indian movie like the Bollywood musical Bride and Prejudice, with Aishwarya Rai!
All the ingredients in this recipe can be found in any Indian store.
The key to a properly seasoned chudwa is to sprinkle the spices as soon as the puffed rice is out of the frying oil. Also, add the raisins and cashew nuts immediately after frying the peanuts, so they catch the heat of the peanuts. Immediately season with citric acid and salt. One more thing: you want to make sure the mix is homogenous so toss well before serving.
We used 25 green chiles and 2 whole red Thai bird chiles from the garden. Lulu has been experimenting for the last two years with super spicy chiles. The green chiles are pretty mild compared to the red ones. The red Thai bird chiles are very small but deadly spicy. You can also find red dried chiles in any Indian stores. Check out the habaneros that Lulu planted last year; they are not as spicy as the Thai bird chiles but oh boy, they are still hot! In the end, the Indian mix should not be very spicy; the addition of the chiles is to lend a nice aroma to the oil.
Citric acid is a white powder that it is used in garam masala as well to add a sour taste. I don't add lemon juice, otherwise the mix would get soggy.
Curry leaves are pretty easy to grow. We just leave the tree right in the planter; it only needs a little water. You can also find fresh curry leaves at the Indian store; they come in a 1/2-cup plastic package.
I buy the Laxmi brand puffed rice. You can find it at the Indian store also. It's sold in 2-lb (32-oz) packages. It's called parched rice or thick poha. It's excellent as well for making Asian sizzling rice soup. I'll post the recipe later.
I didn't indicate the exact amount of spices for the chudwa. Just count 1 teaspoon of the spice mix per 1 cup of uncooked puffed rice.
To ensure a flavorful chudwa, change the oil every 3-4 cups of frying puffed rice. Discard all the frying oil.
Some people add 1 cup of slightly toasted dry coconut slices and a little bit of cumin seeds and mustard seeds but we don't. I find these flavors to be a little over-powering. Our family prefers chudwa "plain" with just nuts and raisins.
You can keep chudwa in an airtight container and store up to 2-3 weeks. Believe me, it doesn't last long in our house.
We always make a huge batch of chudwa because this dish is so labor-intensive. But don't be deterred. You should try your own; it's SO much better than the store-bought one. We use no preservatives and we don't skimp on any of the ingredients, especially nuts. You'll be rewarded, I promise.
Published By: on July 8, 2009.