Tea-Time Snack: Namkeen Karela aka Champakali

This tea-time snack has a unique shape, can be made in three ways (savory, sweet, and spicy), and has several names.  The savory one is simply deep-fried, the spicy one can have different spice blends, and in the sweet version the deep-fried beauties are coated with sugar syrup.  The sweet one is called ‘champakali’ in Maharashtra, ‘elo jhelo’ in Bengal, ‘kordois’ in Assam, and ‘panasa honalu’ in Andhra.

My mom taught me how to make these; she usually makes the savory one and calls it ‘namkeen karela’.  There is absolutely NO need to put any baking soda or baking powder to make these lovelies.  Very few and very simple ingredients.

How to make savory tea-time snack namkeen karela / champakali / kordois / elo jhelo:
Yield: about 15 pieces

½ cup (60gm) all-purpose flour (maida)
1 pinch salt
1 Tbsp warm oil or clarified butter (ghee)
About 2 Tbsp water
Oil for deep-frying

Mix flour + salt + ghee.  Add water to create a firm dough.  Keep aside for 15-20 mins, covered, so the dough does not dry out.

#1. Divide dough into 15 small balls.
#2. Using a rolling pin, roll out flat and thin.  About 4cm diameter.
#3. Using a knife, create vertical slits in the center.  Avoid cutting the edges.
#4. Holding the top edge with one hand and bottom edge with another, twist and pinch the edges to keep in place.

Deep-fry in hot oil on medium heat until light brown and crispy.  Drain on absorbent paper, let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.  Stays great for a week or two, if it does not finish up much before then. 

For the spicy version there are two ways:
a) the dough can be made with several flavor variations and combinations, such as with cumin seeds (jeera), carom seeds (ajwain), black pepper powder, red chili powder, and dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) ... yep, just like masala mathri.
b) simply sprinkle some table salt or black salt, red chili powder, chat masala, etc on top after these are fried and drained.

When I had a few friends over for tea one evening and served this namkeen karela / champakali, they all were wondering how I made this shape and discussing whether I joined several strips together.

I only sat back and enjoyed.
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  1. The shapes were really appealing.Makes me hungry for more .

  2. Color of Tea is a concern.....

  3. My mum I make these. They're called Chinese Lanterns in the Recipe Book "Indian Delights". from South Africa. I add Kalonji which gives them a really nice flavour.


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