Salt Cheedai / Uppu Cheedai – Deep Fried Savory Balls

Seedai / Cheedai is made during Gokulashtami as a Naivedyam to Lord Krishna. Apart from festival celebrations, it is associated with a lot of fond memories for me. It is one of my favorite savory items. Hard yet crunchy, peppery along with the taste of cumin seed and a hint of hing and coconut. Well worth the effort. Amma often makes it at home. Since it is time consuming to shape the cheedai into balls, she always makes it when all of us are available to help. Even grandma used to join. But today I made this all by myself and it was not tough at all to make cheedai with two cups of rice flour. I could manage time very well by simultaneously frying as well as rolling the dough.

Although cheedai is easy to make, it is also slightly tricky because if you do not do things the right way, the chances are more that you will not get it right or something might go seriously wrong, for example, cheedai bursting inside the hot oil and causing oil splash. For this reason, one needs to be really careful while attempting to make this.

Ingredients:
Raw rice flour – 1 cup
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Butter – 1 tbsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Black peppercorns – 6-8
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
Sesame seeds – 2 tsp
Asafetida powder – 1/4 tsp
Oil (for frying) – 300-400 ml
Salt as needed
Water as needed

Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 30-35 mins (7 mins per batch)
Yield 300 gm Cheedai

Method:
Dry roast the raw rice flour until the raw smell of the rice goes away and you get a nice roasted aroma.
Remove from fire and sieve to ensure that the powder is fine and no lumps are present.
Dry roast the urad dal until the dal turns pink. Remove from fire and pulse in a mixer to a fine powder.
Sieve the urad dal flour twice to ensure that you take only the fine powder and you discard the coarse powders.
Grind the grated coconut along with the jeera and black peppercorns to make a coarse paste. You may add small quantities of water.
Mix a tablespoon of sieved, finely powdered urad dal flour along with the sieved rice flour. Add the ground coconut, cumin, and pepper paste into the flours, add sesame seeds, asafetida powder, salt, and butter. Use your fingers to mix the flour and powders well.
Add small quantities of water to make a dough. The dough should be soft and firm but not loose.
Take a small portion of the dough, place this dough on your left hand and use the long three fingers on the right hand to roll the dough into tiny marble-sized balls. Place them on a paper. It is recommended that you allow this to dry a bit before you deep fry them.
Heat oil in an iron kadai.
Once the oil is hot, gently and carefully drop a batch of the marble-sized dough balls into the oil. Retain the fire in medium in the beginning for at least 2 mins. You will notice a lot of bubbles during this time. When the bubbles reduce, lower the fire and stir occasionally until the balls change color to golden brown. Use a strainer ladle to remove the cheedai from the oil. Place on an absorbent paper to absorb excess oil.
Store in an air tight container once it cools down.

Notes:
1. Sieve the flour at least twice to ensure that the rice flour and urad dal flour used is finely powdered. This will ensure there are no accidental oil splashes while frying the cheedai.
2. Although it is recommended that the rolled cheedai balls should dry off a bit before they are deep fried, you need not roll the entire dough into balls and then start the frying process. You may roll enough for 2-3 batches, start frying batch by batch and as you are frying, you may roll new batches of cheedai.
3. Use a thick bottomed iron kadai for frying to ensure uniform heating.
4. While deep frying, maintain the flame first in medium and then in low stirring occasionally.
5. Following the proportions and instructions properly is key to getting this right.

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