I tried all sorts of titles to this post…historical ones, descriptively tempting ones, funny (-to-me-but-lame-to-all-else) ones, and then I realized that the word KHAKHRA sounds grandiose enough to be placed up there, all by itself. After all, it’s got not one, but two K’s thrown into it and feels quite kingly up there on a pedestal. Especially if you breathe in deeply and belt out the “Khhh” with this deep throaty undertone.
The child in me also believes that it would be the perfect duck insult. In the hypothetical situation that you were a crabby old duck crossing the street and someone smashed your tiny webbed toes, this would be exactly the sort of expression that you’d quack out in a fit of self-violation and utter repulsion – KKhaKHRRAAA! [terrifying blood-shot beady duck eyes]
Now that I’ve unleashed my nonsensical irrelevant blabber1 on you, let me give you the low down on this beloved snack food of mine. Khakra is one of many yeast-less Indian bread variants out there – a hybrid of textures between the wheat-based Roti and the flour/lentil/chickpea/rice-born Papadum, and one that can be stored and munched on for many days after it’s slid off the griddle. The beauty of the Khakhra is that it does a similar crunchy shattering act that papadums are best known for, yet without the pimpled surface or pungency of a Papadum. Dare I say it, but the earthy, roti-like aftertaste of Khakhras makes me prefer them over Papadums anyday. [I already know of two Khakhra haters out there, so haters, bring it on - my comments section won't feel whole without you.]
Special thanks to @shebanx for giving me some awesome photo-editing tips to help me make my photo wrecks a tad bit more appealing.
The Khakhra was probably born in the kitchens of some culinary Einstein that hailed from the Indian state of Gujarat. Few things in the world would have the caveman in me trade in my thick juicy turkey leg for a bowl of spinach, but the Gujaratis, with their simple, yet outrageously flavorful and satisfying veggie dishes, might actually win that battle someday. A Gujarati lady once served me a “peas masala” dish, where the peas were not just some extras prancing about on the sidelines, but the actual stars, the heroes, the protagonists, dammit they were the MEAT of the dish. I’m ashamed to admit that I indulged in two solid helpings of this gloriously dressed-up dish of peas as though it were a hefty bowl of mutton masala fry.
Now these not particularly appetizing-looking parched shards of bread are typically made of wheat flour and a bunch of other ingredients that add spice and flavor, like red chillies, cumin…and something that I find really differentiates a good Khakhra from a brilliant one: dried fragrant fenugreek. Paired with yogurt or a cup of steaming hot chai, a stack of these are perfect for Paite Pooja (literal hindi -> english translation: Tummy Worship)
Oftentimes the wheat is mixed in with some other sort of millet, like Ramdev’s Bajra2 ones that I’ve been infatuated with for some time now. While I’m usually not a fan of mass-produced and packaged store-bought eats, the Ramdev brand of Khakhra with their little masala sprinkler pack inside absolutely defies the need to make my own homemade version. I’d have loved to dissect what else has gone into these packaged ones, but Ramdev has completely missed the memo asking manufacturers to List Your Ingredients on the Darned Box.3 [Food for thought: Rather than interfering in the nuclear policies of other countries, the U.S. should focus on imposing their OCD-ness for detailed listing of ingredients on every package, down to the last molecules of propylene glycol, potassium sorbate, acesulfame potassium and whatever other convoluted chemicals get thrown down the pipe into your vacuum-sealed goodie packet.]
Anyhoo, Khakhra with fenugreek is up there for me on the Scale of Colossal Crunchiness. It has all the perks of eating something that feels crispy and deep-fried, but without actually being deep-fried and without a soggy layer of grease speckled up top. I’ll sometimes just crunch on it between meals [like now]…or after a Gujarati friend told me about it being viewed as a healthy alternative to dinner in Gujarat, I have, on occasion, crackled up some Khakhra into a bowl of yogurt and convinced myself that I'm detoxing after a particularly wild day of being an ogre around anything edible that crosses my path. To my friend’s credit, it does boast being Low Calorie, Zero Sugar, Zero Cholestrol and Zero Transfat on the package, which of course, in the absence of the ingredients listed, I’ve happily and blindly accepted because a detox dinner never tasted this good.
Where you could buy your stack of Khakhras:
- Madhoor Grocery: Ground Floor, Al Baker Building, Al Fahidi Street, Souk Al Kabeer, Bur Dubai, Dubai
Landmark: Near International Traders Middle East LtdPhone: +971 (4) 352-3609
- I haven't checked, but I'm quite sure you can also get these at a branch of Al Adil Supermarket (there are a bunch around town, would probably call one from this list before heading out there to buy)
My extremely informative footnotes (aka dribble that I really should have edited out but didn’t have the heart to.):
1PS. More irrelevant blabber but I was itching uncontrollably to share it with any fellow Sesame Street fans out there. If there were an Indian equivalent to Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, it would be the Khakhra Monster. A hairy cute little hairy spectacled very hairy monster...did I say hairy? I can see the scene before my eyes: long savory sheets of Khakhra laid out end to end, this cute little hairy monster goes top speed toward it, jangling his jaws as he saws through the sheets with frenzied excitement, crunchy bits flying helter skelter in the air – ME VANT KHAAAKRAA!)
1aPPS. I really need to switch to watching BBC or National Geographic so I can finally grow up.
2 I realize I’ve thrown out some pretty exotic words in this post like Bajra, but luckily for you and me, Wikipedia has decked itself out with a Bajra definition. There’s even a Khakhra definition: “a popular vegetarian roasted Gujarati Indian thin cracker bread or snack item made from mat bean and wheat flour and oil.” It’ll be comforting to you that I’d never heard of Mat, or Moth Bean (which is what wiki helpfully redirects you to if you search for mat bean), until five seconds ago as I was trying to dredge up these definitions for you. Moth Bean doesn’t sound particularly appetizing as far as I’m concerned, in fact it sounds so wretched and musty that I’d rather my Khakhra didn’t contain it at all. Of course I’d have no way of knowing without the ingredients on the box.
3 The Ramdev box did have a portion on it concealed by what may have been the official English-Arabic government label. The white one that they slap on most packages here, right over the ingredients, which makes me foam at the mouth with rage at the ludicrous placement of it all. Anyhow, in my desperation to find out whether my beloved brand of Khakhra contained moth bean or not, I delegated the arduous task of peeling out the label without ripping the package to someone at home. Said assigned label-peeler did so impeccably using a hairdryer and his fingernails – to uncover...nothing. No ingredients. Niente.
Well, Moth Bean or not, this box of Khakhra totally rocks my world.