The word 'Kuswar' instantly brings to mind the Kulkuls that are loved by the people of all ages. Kulkuls can be eaten plain (made with slightly sweetened dough) or rolled in (mael) sugar icing (preferred by kids especially). Kuswar is almost synonymous with the twin terms Kidyo-Gulio. Gulio refers to Rice Marbles which are often hard to bite and most people I know skip even making them. I haven't made them yet, but did make the Kulkuls several times in the past couple of years.
Although most of the Kuswar used to be made at home when I was a kid, as the years passed by we stuck to making just the kulkuls & rice laddoos (thandhlache laadu) at home and the rest of the Kuswar was bakery bought. My dad would buy the plum cake, neuries (sweet puffs), kokkisan (roce cookies) in addition to walnuts, oranges (from Coorg) and Nendra bananas (also called as macho bananas). This odd combination of sweets (home made & bakery bought), seasonal fruits & nuts made Christmas even more special. While the rest of the goodies got over soon, the kulkuls lasted well into the new year.
It's sad that today not too many families make these Kuswar goodies, the younger generation is definitely missing out on all the fun that we used to have as kids, sitting round the dining table curling the kulkuls with forks or combs. I just introduced this lovely custom to my son who was more than willing to help my husband & me curl the kulkuls
I have attempted the kidyo with just 1/4kg flour, it makes just a small batch enough for 2-3 people with average appetites :-) Make sure that if you are doubling or tripling the quantity of flour, you have some company, an extra pair of hands to curl the dough lest you give up half way! Trust me, you will be happy with the results and enjoy the whole experience if you are attempting this for the first time, so keep going! Enjoy!!
Yield: 1 small batch
- 250gm maida /all purpose flour
- 1 egg (optional) * see notes
- approx 1/4 cup freshly extracted coconut milk or lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp sugar * see notes
- 1 tbsp warm oil
- a sprinkling of salt to taste
- oil for deep frying
- 75-100gm sugar (depends on how thick an icing you prefer)
- 1/4 cup water (approx)
You will also require:
- a unused/clean comb or fork
- a small bowl with a few drops of oil to grease the fork/comb
- a large & wide mouthed heavy bottomed wok/kadhai for deep frying
- slotted spoon
- large flat dish to place the curls
Preparing the dough
In a large bowl (used to knead dough for chapathis) mix the maida, salt, sugar and egg until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. To this add the coconut milk in parts - using only as much as required to help knead the flour into a smooth pliable dough. For best results knead the dough well for at least 5-7 minutes wetting your fingers with coconut milk every now & then to help achieve a smooth dough. (see notes). Keep the dough aside - cover with a damp cloth so that the dough doesn't dry up during the process of making the dough curls
Depending on the kind of design you wish - choose the thin or thicker bristle side of the comb or a fork. Slightly grease it with a dab of oil (let it not drip). Make small marble size balls of the dough and flatten each ball over the bristles/fork to form a thin rectangular patch. Start rolling it from one side using a little pressure on your finger tips so that the dough has the impression of the bristles/fork. Seal the edges gently - ensure that the impression is not lost. Place the curl on a large lightly greased plate. Continue the process to make more curls until all the dough is used up
Pic1 Pic 2 Pic 3
Pic 1: Marble sized balls of dough
Pic 2: Kulkuls made using a comb
Pic 3: Kulkuls made using a fork
Heat oil in the kadhai on a medium high flame (see notes). When the oil is ready for frying, drop as many kulkuls as the kadhai will hold. Be careful not to let the oil splatter on your face! Reduce the heat a bit if necessary and fry until the kulkuls are golden pink. Do not let them brown too much. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain excess oil against the side of the kadhai & transfer onto an absorbent kitchen tissue. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Kulkuls keep fresh for upto 2 weeks
Glazing the kulkuls
The next day, make the syrup by heating the sugar and the water to make a syrup. When the syrup thickens and coats the back of the spoon, toss in the kulkuls and hold the pan on both sides and gently toss the kulkuls so that all of them are uniformly coated with the syrup. Transfer the kulkuls on a large plate or clean banana leaf and quickly separate them with a fork so that they don't stick to each other. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Above pic: kulkuls freshly rolled in the icing syrup and waiting to cool
1. I have tried making kulkuls with different measurements at least 4 times. The trick in getting the perfect kulkuls - the Mangalorean way (a bit hard yet crispy to the bite) is to knead the dough well and to use a bit oil while kneading. Adding the egg is optional as I have noticed that it makes the kulkuls softer.
Some people add baking powder to the dough - this never worked for me as I got fat and fully bloomed kulkuls - not my type. I prefer the thinner Mangalorean variety of Kulkuls that snap at every bite.
2. You can even add butter instead of oil, however, the shelf life reduces as butter can smell rancid after a while.
3. Some recipes call for semolina/rawa to be added to the flour. This apparently makes the kulkuls more crisp with an almost biscuit-like crunch (again, not something I prefer). Do make sure however to lightly roast the rawa if you intend adding it as it helps the dough to cook faster
4. If you don't intend glazing the kulkuls you may add an extra tbsp of sugar to the dough to sweeten it. Plain kulkuls taste great too.
5. The oil for deep frying must be adequately heated and at the right temperature to ensure that the insides of the kulkuls are fried as well. Smoking hot oil will brown the kulkuls on the outside faster and leave the insides uncooked. Inadequate heating of the oil will result in kulkuls that will soften after they cool and won't be crisp as desired. To test the readiness of the oil drop a small (mustard size) ball of dough into the hot oil, if it pops up to the surface within 2-3 seconds, your oil is ready for frying
6. If your dough is not soft & pliable you will find it difficult to curl them and the edges wont seal resulting in them opening up during the frying process, so ensure that your dough is kneaded well and is really soft - to test it, after kneading, poke your thumb into the dough ball, if it makes a smooth impression & the dough doesn't stick to your fingers, then your dough is correct. Well kneaded dough ensures that your kulkuls seal off at the edges without applying too much pressure. If at any stage you find that the dough is rough, add a few drops of oil to knead instead of water or coconut milk. When you break off the marble size balls it should be elastic and not break in abrupt jerks
Kulkuls are called as or Kidyo/Kidiyo in Konkani which means worm. Before you say eeks, let me tell you that they are called so simply because they look like silkworms. Let the name not discourage you to make these lovely sweets.