Our exposure to Gujarathi food happened very early in life thanks to the influence of friends who were more like family. Anila aunty was happiest when she was feeding us (siblings and cousins) choicest delicacies from her kitchen.The wafer thin khakras that she made to perfection were always a firm favourite.
Commercially made Khakras somehow lacked the texture that was unique to the ones made by hand. Just when I had given up on that memory,this past summer brought an unexpected surprise. A friend dropped in for lunch and brought us a packet of khakras that looked and tasted like the ones from my childhood. She happily shared the name and number of the person who made them on order. The lady in question is familiarly known as Nirmala Behen and she has been making whole wheat Khakras for the past 40 years.
A million thoughts went back in time while watching Nirmala Behenji preparing her khakras in the very same manner, squatted on the floor ,in a kitchen that looked so similar right down to the stone grey coloured flooring.
We were taught to eat these thin crispy discs with a side of chundha (sweet mango pickle) and long slivers of marinated green chillies that were a speciality from Palanpur. The chundha or chundo which has a marmalade like stickiness also carries a mild tangy note and is made with a special variety of mango called the Rajapuri. It’s red colour comes from the vibrant chilli powder that is also sourced from the state of Gujarat. My mother gets reminded of her dear friend every time she pulls out the recipe to make this special pickle during summer.
Nirmala Behen was quite fascinated with my childhood khakra tale.Her neighbour who happened to be visiting at that time said that these khakras were very popular with her relatives abroad. Nirmala ji does all the work herself. She welcomed me in to her small spotless kitchen and proceeded to chat while she continued rolling out the dough for another order.
Our order was ready and neatly stacked in a pile. We had ordered half a kilo of plain Khakras and the other half kilo flavoured with the traditional masala. She also makes methi khakras. The masala ones had a reddish tinge and tasted absolutely delicious.As soon as we got home ,the khakras were transferred from the packet to a circular steel container but not before we broke off generous bits to munch on.The best characteristic of the home made Khakras are the flaky layers that result in uneven jagged pieces when broken. They are light and dry to the touch.She does add a bit of ghee for the plain ones and a little oil to the rest.She charges extra for oil free khakras as they are more labour intensive.
Khakras are very handy and make for great meal fix-ups. But help yourself to a few and keep the container far out of reach or you may finish more than you originally intended to! A generous helping of steamed sprouts with a side of khakras is a healthy and delicious breakfast option.The chundha –chilli combination is best reserved for the evening with a cup of your favourite hot beverage!
Since Nirmala Behen works alone,she needs a week’s notice to make khakras on order. She is comfortable conversing in Hindi and Gujarathi and manages to get by in Tamil. She is very prompt in executing her order and the khakras can be picked up at the time specified. It was so lovely making an acquaintance with this endearing lady who quietly toils away in a small corner of the city. When picking up your order, do take a few minutes to have a chat with her ,she seems to enjoy that a lot !
10 th street Sathyanarayana nagar
(At the end of 9th street)
Sathya sai Nagar,
Podanur Main Road,
Contact between 10 am and 4pm (Please do adhere to these timings)