Saturday, August 21, 2010

Traditional Onam Delicacies: Sharkkara Upperi / Jaggery coated plantain chips

Turning out perfect Sharkkara Upperi usually takes time. Sharkkara Upperi is a jaggery coated fried plantain wedge, lightly spiced with dried ginger and cummin. It is always accompanies other fried condiments like Varutha Upperi = Salty fried plantain wedges, Chakka Chula Varuthathu = fried green jackfruits in the tradtional feast. Jackfruit and its appearence  in an Onam feast depends on the vagaries of the monsoon and the ability of a good fruit to survive until the harvest season.

However Sharkkara Upperi and Varutha Upperi are twins, traditionally home-made in the early days of Onam. Variations come both in the size and shape, the spicing mix;  some add powdered cardamom and omit one or the other spice. Others suggest soaking the raw plantain in sour buttermilk to remove the starchy serum.

1 1/2  medium sized green/ raw  plantain, skin removed and soaked in water for 30 minutes
3 1/2 tbsps or 1 large cube of Indian Jaggery, roughly the weight of the fried plantain chips
1/8th Cup of water
1/2 tsp powdered dried ginger/ Chukku
1/4 tsp cummin seeds, powdered
2 tsps fine powdered sugar
2 tsps of clarified butter/ ghee
1 1/2 Cups of Oil for frying [vegetable oil used here, traditionally coconut oil is used]
Soak the peeled whole plantain in plain water for 30 minutes. This is to  remove the sticky residue/ serum of  raw plantain. Remove after 30 minutes and wipe dry with paper towels.

Cut the plantain into 4 long slices and slice into wedges about 3/4 cm thick
Heat the oil on medium high.
Check with a single wedge: it should not brown immediately
Adjust the heat accordingly
Put the cut wedges in the oil and cook until golden brown on an even medium heat
Stir occasionally so that the wedges do not crowd or stick to each other
It should take about 20 minutes or more
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels completely.

Heat a heavy bottomed, wide-mouthed pan on medium high
Melt the jaggery with the water and stir well as it foams up
Skim the foam
Add the spices: dried ginger and powdered cummin
Once the jaggery is of a thread consistency: 2-3 thread consistency, add the fried plantains and mix well, making sure that the wedges are coated evenly,
Add the clarified butter
Turn the heat to low
Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the pieces
Mix well
Take off the heat and allow to cool completely
Store in an airtight container.


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