Vella Cheedai is a traditional South Indian sweet – It is rock hard on the outside and surprisingly powdery inside.
As kids we used to compete for ‘The strongest teeth’ and the winner was the person who managed to bite into the crust. For the weak minded – better break it with a metal pestle or a rolling pin before digging your teeth – this one is tough! It is one of the easiest sweets, and yet I seem to make it only once a year on ‘Janmashtami’. If making for the first time try in small quantities – they behave a little tricky and the sweets burst in the frying pan if not formed properly.
To me August is synonymous with sumptuous food and yummy delicacies. August in India is full of festivals starting with raksha bandhan (celebrating the sibling bond), followed by navroz (Parsi new year), and then janmashtami (Birth anniversary of Lord Krishna), and of course Ganesh chaturthi (bitrth anniversary of Lord Ganesha).
Every festival in India is usually characterised by specific sweets and savouries. Tamilians make several goodies during Janmashtami like cheedai, thattai, murukku, vella aval and offer Lord Krishna his favourite dish – fresh butter. This year I only made ‘vella vheedai’ [vellam is jaggery], vella aval [jaggery with puffed rice flakes and coconut] and appam, as I was too tired at the end of making these two dishes. At such times I marvel at the energy of my mom and grandmom. Probably the diminishing energy reserves have something to do with the pollution or stress in our lives.
Long back I bought a book titled ‘Southern Delights – Recipes to Remember from Palakkad’ by Parwathy Akhileswaran. It contains all the recipes specific only to Palakkad, my Native. Many other people have been asking me to get this book but I haven’t found a second copy. It’s a great book if you would like to learn more about the different types of molagootals, morkootans, the naivedyams etc. I have tried many sweets from this book apart from the one I am sharing here.
Note – I have made some minor changes to the original recipe.
Recipe : Vella Cheedai | Vella Seedai (Rice flour and jaggery balls)
Based on a recipe by Parwathy Akhileswaran
A sweet made during Janmashtami, Gokulashtami or Sri Krishna Jayanti in Tamilnadu and Kerala
Serves – 35 Nos.
2 cups rice flour (I used organic)
1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered jaggery depending on the sweetness
(Organic is much softer and easier to powder)
1tsp white sesame seeds (Optional) or 1 tbsp. coconut pieces chopped fine
Oil for frying – About 2 cups
2tbsp – coconut or any neutral oil
1. Place the jaggery in a heavy wok and add a ladle of water to it. Strain once to remove any impurities and heat, till it comes to soft ball consistency. Keep checking as detailed below.
Testing for soft ball consistency;
Take a cup of tap water. When you drop a little of the syrup in the water and roll, the jaggery should form a soft ball immediately. If it melts, it means that the syrup has to be cooked a little more. If it solidifies immediately, the syrup has cooked beyond the stage.
2. Add sesame seeds or coconut pieces and oil. Remove from fire and add the rice flour mixing to form a thick dough. Let it cool slightly. While it is still warm, knead well with greased hands, otherwise you are bound to feel the heat. Optionally you could use sterile gloves while forming the balls.
3. Form one inch spheres without any cracks and set aside in a plate covered with cloth.
4. Heat the oil and fry a few balls at a time, swirling them around with a slotted spoon so that they are evenly fried. When they turn golden brown remove, and drain onto a tissue. At this stage do not press them as they will be soft. As they cool they will harden. Similarly fry the rest and store in sterilised air tight containers when completely cool. These last really long, but then they are so tasty – they don’t last in my house for more than a day.
1. If your syrup has crossed the stage of soft ball consistency add a little warm water, other wise the balls crack and splutter when fried.
2. If you find that the dough is too hard or not soft enough to form a ball heat a little water, and add a teaspoon at a time while kneading.
3. The dough should be softer than matthri dough but slightly harder than dough for poori.
4. I have seen that frying many balls at a time prevents cracking.
These cheedais are off to Mythreyee’s ‘Paajaka Sweet Series’ event.