Guyanese Mithai or Kurma

I have a weakness for this delicious sweet treat. In Guyana, it is very common to find Mithai everywhere. Our Indian heritage has brought this gem to us collectively and we just consider it a “Guyanese” thing. Who can resist the thin, crunchy, sweet pieces of fried dough? The grated coconut and mild spices all enhance this treat. It is coated with a sugar syrup which turns white once dried. Kids and adults alike love this, so it is also commonly served at Birthday parties. I used to look forward to festivals and jhandis as I was assured that all sorts of delicious sweetmeats which would be offered to guests. Some of my other favorites were Barfi, Jalebi, Laddoo, Carrot Halwa and Peera. In Guyana, we never used the name Kurma for Mithai. I later learned that all Indian sweets are called Mithai. So I stand corrected, but for all of my Guyanese friends who lovingly know this as simply Mithai, I shall keep the reference for familiarity’s sake.

There are two types of Kurma: the thin crunchy ones and the thicker, softer diamond shaped ones. I love them both indiscriminately!! It’s the kind of thing that you cannot stop eating at one, as after having the first one and your palate wakes up. The hint of aniseed and the coconut tickle your palate and caress your taste buds. Before you know it, you’re picking them up from the container by 3’s or 4’s. They are great anytime of the day or night, with tea or coffee, water or milk. They are just plain delicious.

I decided to make a batch of Kurma today. I had a grated coconut on hand and as it was Saturday, I figured it was a great snack for weekend munchies. Everyone was happy to see them and so it was a productive and satisfying project. If you grew up with these, why not try the recipe and bring back a nostalgic taste of home. If you have never tried this before, do try them. I hope you can feel the happiness I do when I taste them.

Kurma or Guyanese Mithai

Ingredients

1 1/4lbs all purpose flour

6 oz margarine

2 tsp baking powder

4 oz sweetened condensed milk

4 oz milk ( approximately. This is to mix to a soft dough)

3/4 cup or 6 oz grated coconut

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp crushed aniseed

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

Oil for frying (approximately 2 cups)

Syrup

2 cups white sugar

3/4 cup water

1 stick of cinnamon

1 whole star anise

Method

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix to a fine crumble.

Mix in the finely grated coconut.

Add the sweetened condensed milk

Add half of the milk and mix together. Keep adding milk until you have a soft but manageable dough. If you have added too much liquid, simply add a bit of flour to make the dough firmer.

Divide the dough into 3 equal balls. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll the dough to 1/8″ for thin kurma or 1/4″ for thicker kurma. Cut into thin strips 1/4″ wide and 3-4″ long. For the thicker variety cut into diamond shapes about 2″ length.Cutting up the thin Kurma pieces.

Have a large recipient lined with a few sheets of paper towel ready. A slotted metal spoon is best for draining the excess oil when frying.

Heat oil in a deep pot. Test one Mithai in the oil for readiness, it should bubble up when the temperature is right. Add some of the dough pieces. Do not overcrowd the pot. Fry until golden brown. Drain, remove and place in the prepared recipient.

For the syrup:

Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan and stir to mix. Bring to a boil for about 12 minutes without stirring.

In a large bowl, place the fried dough pieces and pour half of the syrup over. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently turn the kurma to coat completely, add more syrup as needed. The sugar will turn white as it dries.

Store in a sealed container for up to a week.

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