Indian cuisine has a range of sweet dishes that can be incredibly humble and easy-to-make, or may have complex and physically intensive process (think soan papdi). When it comes to sweet snacks, we have a wide variety of those as well, starting from gujiya (sweet stuffed pastry), meethe pakode or gur ke pakode (jaggery fritters), moongfali ki patti (chikki), gajak (made from white sesame seeds and jaggery) etc. One such purely desi snack is the nankhatai - a type of shortbread cookie that you might remember being eaten widely in the 90s. In Delhi, nankhatai is also a winter street food that is sold across the city by vendors. They keep the tiny biscuits warm by placing them on a crude iron griddle and you can buy them by the dozen or half a dozen to beat the winter chills and treat your taste buds to something soothing and comforting.
Nankhatai: The Secret To Making These Cookies To Perfection
Nankhatai is also known as kulcha-e-Khataye in Afghanistan and Iran. Although the biscuit is said to have originated from the Indian subcontinent; it is popular in neighbouring Pakistan as well. Nankhatai that is sold on the streets might seem different from the version that you may have eaten at friend's or your neighbour's house. The cookie that you find on the streets might have a more crumbly texture with a dark golden brown top, but the homemade version may be denser, lighter in colour and sometimes topped with chopped nuts like pistachios and almonds. However, what doesn't change is the buttery after-taste of the cookie that is devoured during tea-time. The cookie is flavoured with cardamom or elaichi and is made from a mix of refined flour and gram flour.
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Nankhatai is perfect tea-time snack
Some nankhatai recipes also contain nutmeg, making it a medley of flavours. The unique feature of nankhatai that it makes it oh-so-satisfying is the rich buttery flavour and brittle texture that makes it melt in your mouth, right from the first bite. The secret to making it like that is simple - loads and loads of fat or butter (or ghee). A little bit of baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is used to make the cookie rise and obtain its beautiful perfectly round shape that resembles a pillow. Although you can get nankhatai at a number of bakeries, you can also enjoy this cookie at home by following a few easy steps. The cookie is ready in not more than 20 minutes, so really no reason for you to not try!
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Famous YouTuber Manjula Jain teaches us how to make the beautiful desi 'biskoot' nankhatai at home in this recipe video from her channel 'Manjula's Kitchen':