I once read that the essence of a culture is in the words that cannot be translated. Explained yes, but not directly translated. The example given by the author was of Urdu word “takalluf”. “Takalluf” is that polite first and often second time refusal of an offer that stems from good manners. Someone asks for tea and you politely refuse the first time, perhaps even the second even as your eyes are practically glued shut from exhaustion.”Khasta” is another such word for me – the perfect “Meethi Tikiyaan” (sweet fritters) should be “khasta”. The way to best explain it seems to be that the exterior of the tiki should have the sturdy flakiness of a sweet pie dough while it’s centre should have the lavish butteriness of a rich cake.
There are many recipes for meethi tikiyaan out there, some with shredded coconut folded into the batter, most with a handful of semolina. The version I am sharing here today is the one taught to me by my youngest maternal aunt, our resident tikiyaan maker extraordinaire. Her recipe omits the semolina (sooji) since it draws in moisture. Also while others make their meethi tikiyaan 3-4 inches big, my Aunt makes hers an eminently snackable 2 inches.
Meethi Tikiyaan are a staple at the Kundon ki Niaz hosted by many in the Islamic month of Rajab . The Niaz is an open house style meal that is hosted with the hope of receiving blessings in an auspicious month. The day of a niaz would entail a mad rush of cooking and cleaning, but I always looked forward to when my aunt would swoop in like a mini hurricane simultaneously instructing me on how to plate the tikiyaan and admonishing us to resist from sampling them lest we run out. If I didn’t have a healthy fear of her I would have probably packed a few away for myself before the guests arrived. I suppose that would also run counter to the spirit of the Niaz.
My last Rajab in Karachi I went over to my Aunts one night to learn how to make her trademark tikis and immediately learnt two things. One, that my meethi tikiyaan would never be as good as hers with her years of know how and two, that tikiyan are an art not science. Proof positive of that is although I follow the same exact recipe every time a variety of factors have caused me to have less than desirable results on at least two occasions. The good news is that you can learn from them in the tips & troubleshooting section of the recipe. This recipe makes a smaller quantity than the original, but should you be feeding a huge crowd then do feel free to reach out and I will send the original your way!
- 1 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp flour
- 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar (add more if you have prefer)
- 1/4 t salt
- a scant 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cream
- 3/4 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 heaped teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (coarsely pounded is best)
- a few drops of kewra or rosewater essence
- 2 tbsp warm milk to use as needed
- Ghee for frying (lots of it!)
- Combine all the ingredients except the milk in a large bowl with clean hands. The saffron you can snip into smaller pieces and scatter over.
- Knead just until it all comes together to form a cohesive ball - the dough will not and should not be perfectly smooth, just hold together well. If you cannot acheive this without the milk then add 1/2 tbsp of the milk and knead one more time. Do not add too much milk.
- Set the dough aside and let it rest for an hour or two. Overnight is fine as well. In an hour or two you should see that the dough has taken off a little bit of a sheen. If it hasn't then add a half tbsp of ghee and knead it in.
- When you are ready to cook heat ghee on a low flame in a wide pot (at least 8 inches). Heating ghee to the right temperature is key. A small ball of dough put into the ghee should sink to the bottom and instantly start sizzling, rising up and frying golden not brown. If it isn't rising the ghee is not hot enough, if it is darkening fast then add more ghee to bring down the temperature.
- Roll out the dough for the tikiyaan on a lightly floured surface (flour more if the dough is too sticky to handle) and roll out to about 1/8 of an inch or sugar cookie thickness. The tikiyaan will puff up a little when cooked. Use your cutter of choice - I used the top of a babyfood jar but you can use any thing clean and round and cut out the tikiyaan.
- Fry just one first to make sure it is frying correctly, cook till the center looks slightly golden and the edges a little more so - about 2.5 minutes on one side and 2 on the other. If you overcook them they will be ok the day off, but considerably crunchier the next day. The tiki will have a craggier surface on on side and that is totally fine.
- If you are happy with the outcome then fry 6-7 at a time, no more adding ghee as needed to the pot.
- Tikiyaan keep well for weeks in a tightly sealed container.
- My 2-inch cutter yielded about 40 mini tikiyaan with this amount of dough.
- - If you are making the tikiyaan on a very hot day:-
- * Please don't add the milk in the first round of kneading, the inclusion of ghee in the recipe will keep the dough soft enough when it melds after resting.
- * Refrigerate any dough that you are not using so that it stays workable.
- - If you are making tikiyaan in a colder dryer climate
- * You may need to add 1/2 tbsp of milk early on in the process.
- * If the tikiyaan are 'dry' enough to touch then for that first batch you may not even need extra flour to roll them out - I didn't this last time.
- Cardamom powder is a pale cousin of the real thing, please take the seeds of a pod to make a spoonful and if you don't have a mortar of pestle put them in a ziploc bag, fold it over a few times and bash at it. Some of the seeds will remain intact and that is just fine.
- Ghee: Since this recipe is gheelicious (lol) the brand of ghee you use will impact the taste. If you have one you like stick to it. Some people fry their tikiyaan in oil, if that is what you grew up with feel free.
- Saffron: Typically saffron is mixed into a warm liquid to allow its colours and flavors to release. My aunt snips hers over the bowl and so do I.