Madata Kaja or Kakinada Kaja
When I came across Jayeeta’s blog Cooking Delight, it felt as if I had come home. One of my best friends is a Bengali and my older maternal aunt was married to a Bengali. As a result, Bengali culture and food is very close to my heart.
As I interacted with Jayeeta, I came to know the warm person that she is. From what I have learnt about her I think that while she loves all things Bengali, she loves to explore other cultures. I see that she travels quite a bit and her love for new cultures is also reflected in the various international recipes she has taken to posting.
For me her blog is a blessing. I have learnt a lot about (and am still learning a lot about) traditional Bengali food from her.
The day she posted Karaisutir Kochuri or Peas Puri, we got talking and I requested her to write-up Radhaballavi with Cholar Dal as a guest post, which she did with so much enthusiasm. and in great detail. As a result, when Jayeeta requested a guest post from me, I wanted to do one just as elaborate. This is why I chose Kakinada Kaja or Madatha Kaja, a traditional sweet made in Andhra Pradesh.
Kajalu (kaja = singular, kajalu = plural) is a layered nuggets made of maida that are then deep fried and dunked in sugar syrup. The result is a dessert which is crisp yet succulent dessert of which you cannot just have one! The layers are the result of folds and also the reason why this dessert gets its name; madatha means a fold in Telugu. (We make another version of kaja called gottam kaja). The alternate name comes from the city of Kakinada, which is famous for this sweet.
Making kajalu is quite simple but needs a bit of patience and a bit of multi-tasking. The trick of the perfect kaja lies in making a paakam (sugar syrup) of the proper consistency and in ensuring that it is layered perfectly.
I must confess this post gave me a lot of performance anxiety. That was for one and only one reason, the final product did not photograph well. As a result, I made three batches over two months (Jayeeta was kind enough to tell me to take my time. :-) ). I finally decided that the photographs of the first batch were the best.
Here is my recipe for this yummy sweet. Hope you enjoy it as much as my family did over the past two months! :-)
Time: 60-75 Minutes
- Maida – 1 Cup
- Sugar – 1.5 Cups
- Water – 2/3 Cup for Syrup + More for the Dough
- Rice Flour – 1 tsp
- Ghee – 2 tsp + 2 tsp
- Soda – 2 Large Pinches
- Oil for Deep Frying
Method to Make Dough
- Sieve the maida and soda together.
- Melt 1 tsp of ghee.
- Pour the hot ghee onto the maida.
- Mix to get a crumbly texture.
- Using a little water at a time, knead into a firm dough.
- Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for 15 minutes.
Method to Make the Syrup
- After the dough has rested, add 2/3 cup water to 1.5 cups sugar.
- Over medium heat, boil the mix for about 15 minutes to create a syrup.
- Once the sugar has melted completely, let the syrup simmer over low heat.
Method to Make the Kajalu
- Divide dough into four equal portions.
- Make for thin rotis with each portion.
- Melt the 2 tsp of ghee.
- Add the rice flour to the ghee and make a paste.
- Take one roti.
- Apply a thin layer of the rice paste flour all over the roti.
- Place another roti on top of it.
- Lightly roll the two layers together so that they stick. Do not apply too much pressure. Roll very lightly.
- Roll the two layers into a tight tube.
- Cut the tube into 1/2″ pieces.
- Gently press each kaja so that the layers stick together.
- Heat the oil till it is medium hot.
- Over low to medium heat, fry the kajalu till they are golden brown. Each batch will take anywhere from 8-12 minutes. Frying like this will ensure that the inner layers are also fried perfectly and that you achieve the layered look.
- With a slotted spoon, life the fried kajalu out of the oil.
- Immediately dip the hot kajalu in the simmering paakam/sugar syrup.
- Letthekajalu simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Kajalu in Syrup
- With a slotted spoon life the kajalu out of the syrup and spread onto a plate to cool down.
- Store in an air-tight container.
Madatha Kaja or Kakinada Kaja
- You could fan-fold each roti instead of staching two and rolling them. That is the traditional way of doing it. However, it is a skill to be mastered and so I showed you an easy way.
- Ensure that the syrup is not too thick, otherwise the kajalu will not absorb it.
- Ensure that the syrup is simmering and the kajalu are hot (straight from the oil) at the instant that you add the kajalu to the syrup. If either one of them is cold, the sugar will crystallize.
- As the kajalu simmer in the syrup, the syrup tends to thicken. So ensure that you make the kajalu in one or at the most two batches.
- If you need to dilute the syrup, boil some water and add the hot water to the syrup. If you add cold water, the sugar will crystallize.