One might not think that kurma*, that ubiquitous, crunchy and sugary fried “Indian Delicacy”** would raise any confusion in the minds of the average Trini. Kurma is the thin crunchy sticks right? Sold in all supermarkets and parlours? And there’s a fat kurma that’s called gulab jamoon? right? Not quite. There are 2 types of kurma, thin and fat, and gulab jamoon is (despite cheapo commercialised versions to the contrary) actually a different creature altogether. This post has the recipe for the fat kurma, which can be distinguished from the richer, softer Trini gulab jamoon recipe. Before I go further, I should perhaps explain for the benefit of any readers who have no idea what any of these things are, that the kurmas and gulab jamoon are basically fried, sweet and lightly spiced doughs, coated in sugar. Yum. They vary in proportions of butter, and shape and you might think I am drawing fine lines, but if you’ve had all 3 made properly, the difference is important to reminiscent-sticklers for history, like myself 😉
I’d always known of the 2 kurmas, and gulab jamoon, as separate entities, and it was only once I hit high school that I realised there was any other way of thinking. Kurma growing up (in a primarily Indian village in Central Trinidad), was really the fat kurma, served as sirni (sweet) after Juma in the mosque on Friday, or at Muslim functions and weddings in little plastic bags (fancy boxes and paper bags developed in later years). There were only a couple families I knew who would sometimes make and bring the thin kurma, which in my mind, was the kind normally sold in shops A recent conversation with a friend who also grew up in Central area, provided a possible reason that we didn’t get much thin kurma growing up – being Christian and surrounded by both Muslim and Hindu neighbours, she remembers getting fat kurma from the Muslims and thin kurma from the Hindus. AHA! It all made sense.
Thinking back to my sources of kurma, and checking with Mom, this explanation was indeed valid. In fact, back when lines between Muslim and Hindu Indo-Trini foods were more defined, you wouldn’t ever get thin kurma from a Muslim household! Muslims served sawine, halwa, maleeda and fat kurma. I used to wait to go to Hindu weddings to get karhi (the dhal with pholourie-like things in it) and even to this day some traditionalists say channa and aloo is “Hindu food”. Mom says long-time, paratha (buss-up-shut) was the roti of choice at Muslim weddings, while dhalpuri was the only roti served at Hindu weddings. Fortunately, I firmly believe if food is good and halaal, there should be no other distinctions In any event, gradually over time, these lines in the sand have been eroded to the point that people outside or within these communities never even think about such categorisations.
But back to the fact that there are 3 fried sweet dough things!
Thin Kurma is made from the least rich of the doughs, which is rolled out flat and cut into thin, rectangular strips, deep fried, then coated in a sugar syrup (paag). Simply Trini Cooking has an excellent step-by-step recipe with photos.
Fat Kurma is a little richer and should taste of some spice (cinnamon, clove and ginger). The dough is usually rolled into ropes, which are cut at an angle into diamond-like cuboids, deep-fried and coated in sugar (usually ending up in white, clumpy, oh-so-sweet sugar all over). It should only be crunchy on the outside, and soft and a little fluffy on the inside.
(Trini) Gulab Jamoon is fried balls of a dough enriched with spices, butter and condensed milk, then glazed with sugar. Traditionally made in elongated ovoid shapes, hand-rollled individually (see photo on the right).
But onto the FAT kurma recipe!
* 2 kg flour
* 500 gm butter/margarine
* 1 tin condensed milk
* 1 tin evaporated milk and 1 tin of water mixed
* Ground spices to taste – cinnamon, elaichi (cardamom) and clove
* 6 tablespoons finely grated ginger (or as desired)
* Oil for frying
* 1 kg granulated sugar (plus 1 cup)
1. Mix flour, spices and margarine completely until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
2. Add half the tin of condensed milk, half the ginger and the evaporated milk and water and mix well.
3. Knead the dough until it is smooth.
4. Separate the dough into 4 balls and knead again to a smooth surface and allow to rest.
5. Put oil to heat in a heavy pot.
6. Roll out a ball to 1/2″ thick and cut into 1 1/2″ strips. Roll these strips slightly into ropes, and cut at an angle into 1 1/2″ pieces. Alternatively, don’t roll into a rope but cut the strips, turning/twisting the strip after each cut.
7. Fry the pieces in batches until golden brown. Repeat for each ball.
8. Leave the kurma in a large basin to cool and continue until all the balls are fried as directed above.
9. Divide the unsugared Kurma into 2 or 3 basins and have sturdy spoons for mixing.
For the Paag (Sugar Syrup):
10. Put sugar and one cup of water to boil in a large pot with the remaining ginger until the sugar mixture spins a thread when dropping from a spoon.
11. At this stage add the remaining half tin of condensed milk and boil again until the mixture spins a thread.
12. Divide this mixture equally between the basins and stir continuously until the kurma is evenly coated. You’ll need help to mix all kurma at the same time or the paag will harden. Unless you just keep the kurma in one large basin and turn it all at the same time.
13. Transfer to another bowl or tray to spread out a bit so that the kurma doesn’t clump together.
This is usually served in little clear plastic bags, but you can go ahead and pop them in just like that. Go brave!
* just to clear up other possible confusions, this has nothing to do with korma which is a type of creamy curry, originating in Pakistan or North India
** oh, harken back to school bazaar days promising many Indian Delicacies for sale!
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