Thaenkuzhal (Murukku)

Murukku is very popular in Tamil Nadu as a snack. There are several types of murukkus involving various ingredients and techniques. Thaenkuzhal is one such type very popular in Thirunelveli district. Though murukku is available with most traditional snack vendors, the theankuzhal type is usually made at home. This recipe is from the Saiva Pillaimar, and I still make it at home during December as it is part of the Christmas tradition in our family.

Thaenkuzhal 1 - Kalaskalai

Thaenkuzhal (Murukku)

My method of making is slightly different now from traditional thaenkuzhal. My mother used to purchase raw rice, wash it thoroughly, dry it in the sun, and send it to the local flour mills for grinding. She used to add whole black gram dhal very lightly roasted to the rice before grinding. The ground flour used to come hot from the mill and had to be cooled before storing. Now, I don’t have those facilities, but it has become easier now with raw rice flour and black gram dhal flour bought in packages from the supermarket shelves, and I must say the product is as good as what my mother used to make, or even better 🙂

Thaenkuzhal gets its name from the hollow channel (kuzhal) that runs through the murukku – it is essentially a twisted tube. It isn’t thaenkuzhal if it isn’t hollow inside! The texture should be crisp and at the same time soft, unlike other murukkus which are hard to bite.

Thaenkuzhal 2 - Kalaskalai

The hollow channel inside the thaenkuzhal.

Unlike many of the other recipes I post, thaenkuzhal is very specific to Tamil Nadu and therefore requires special tools that may not be available with families outside some parts of South India.

  • The thaenkuzhal requires a special mould (murukku achchu/uzhakku) through which the dough is pressed to form the twisted shape. In my grandmother’s time these moulds were made of wood; now I use my mother-in-law’s mould that is made of brass. The mould comes with perforated discs to shape the outer surface of the murukku.
Thaenkuzhal 3 - Kalaskalai

The brass thaenkuzhal mould along with the perforated disc.

  • Traditionally, a long metal rod (kathir kambi) is used to hook the thaenkuzhal out of the oil. I use a special device with a hook at the end and with a wooden handle that my husband made for me from an old motorcycle spoke – the joys of being married to a racing engineer 🙂
Thaenkuzhal 4 - Kalaskalai

The home made thaenkuzhal hook

This snack is very easy on the stomach. It can be given to all age groups, from toddlers to senior citizens, as long as they don’t choke on it. For those without well-formed teeth or those who have lost their dentures (covering the extreme ends of the spectrum) the thaenkuzhal used to be soaked in almost boiling thin jaggery syrup. It makes it very soft and a little sweet. The rice and the dhal mutually complement each other in their amino acid composition and provide an almost complete protein. The butter and the oil of course contribute to the energy content. Those who are on low fat diets must restrict their consumption of this snack.

Ingredients

  • 6 C Raw Rice Flour
  • 2 C Black Gram Dhal Flour
  • 100 g Unsalted Butter
  • 3 ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 5 tsp Salt
  • 4 tsp Asafoetida Powder
  • 1 ½ T Black Sesame (Gingelly) Seeds
  • 4 C (900-1,000 ml) Water
  • Vegetable Oil (Sunflower Oil) for deep frying

Method

  1. Sift the rice and black gram dhal flours and soda together.
  2. Add the salt and asafoetida powder and blend together in a large bowl.
  3. Add the butter to the flour and mix with your fingers till the flour takes on the appearance of coarse semolina.
  4. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and blend.
  5. Add water a little at a time and knead till a smooth dough is formed.
  6. Place a small amount of the dough in the thaenkuzhal mould, and press. The dough should emerge as a continuous string. If it breaks, add a little more water and knead again.
  7. Heat the oil in a shallow kadai or wok to just below smoking point. To test, drop a tiny blob of dough into the oil. If the temperature is right, it should immediately rise to the surface of the oil.
Thaenkuzhal 5 - Kalaskalai

Left – The test dough sinks to the bottom and bubbles rise to the surface. Oil is not hot enough. Right – The test dough rises immediately and bubbles form on the surface. Oil is hot enough.

  1. Fill three-quarters of the mould with dough. Press the thaenkuzhal dough into the oil while swirling to get the twisted shape.
Thaenkuzhal 6 - Kalaskalai

The dough is pressed into the hot oil using the thaenkuzhal mould. Swirl while pressing to get the twisted shape

  1. Pinch the dough just below the mould and release it making sure it falls on the thaenkuzhal (Otherwise it will unravel).
Thaenkuzhal 7 - Kalaskalai

Pinch the dough to cut from the mould and release onto the thaenkuzhal

  1. 3 thaenkuzhals can be fried at a time.
  2. Turn over and fry till golden.
Thaenkuzhal 8 - Kalaskalai

Turning over the half cooked thaenkuzhal

  1. Remove and drain on paper towel. Cool.
Thaenkuzhal 9 - Kalaskalai

Removing the fully cooked thaenkuzhal from the hot oil using the home made hook

  1. Store in airtight containers.

Notes

  1. The texture of the dough is very critical in making thaenkuzhal. If it is too thin (excess water in the mix) it will not only fragment while frying, the extra moisture in the dough will form steam and splutter, and may cause burns from the scattering of hot oil.
  2. My mother used coconut oil; if the oil is not fresh it may give a rancid flavour. I use only sunflower oil or groundnut oil as their smoking point is close to that of coconut oil and I avoid the risk of rancid flavour.
  3. Avoid using a kadai with high sides. An enormous amount of steam is released when the dough is pressed and enters the oil. A shallow kadai allows the steam to dissipate through the sides. If not your fingers, which will still be above the oil pressing the dough, can get badly burnt.
  4. To test crispness, taste a piece of the first batch and if it is not crisp enough, the next batches can be fried a little longer. Keep monitoring the oil temperature.
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