Sakinalu are a traditional deep fried, round concentric shaped snack from Telangana, prepared with freshly ground rice flour and sesame seeds.
What are Sakinalu?
Sakinalu are a very popular and a traditional snack from Telangana, India. Sakinalu are prepared with a special, freshly ground rice flour and sesame seeds. Rice is soaked for a few hours and then ground to flour. Dough is a mixture of sesame seeds, rice flour and seasoning, which is a blend of salt, cumin seeds and ajwain.
The most tricky and time consuming part of the preparation is shaping them. Sakinalu are shaped into concentric circles by twisting the dough between fingers. This is the most challenging part of the preparation and it only comes with practice. Each sakinam has about 3-4 rows. I can not shape sakinalu and for this post, I asked my mom and cousin A to prepare these specifically for the blog when I was in India and coincidentally, it was just before Sankranti.
A variation of sakinalu are seen in other states, though they are not the same. Uniqueness of this snack is, it’s thin concentric rows. In fact, I feel sakinalu prepared these days are not as thin as they used to be years ago and partly because it is quite challenging and time consuming to shape in such thin rows.
Flavors of Sakinalu
Most popular sakinalu are tella (white) sakinalu which are seasoned with just salt. For spicier versions, use chili powder, red chilies paste or green chilies paste. For this post, we made three flavors; tella sakinlau, karam (spicy) sakinalu with red chili paste and green chilies sakinalu. Both red chili paste and green chili paste sakinalu are called karam sakinalu as both are spicy hot. The only difference is the type of chilies used.
Chilies; green or red are ground to a fine paste before adding it to the dough. Though chilies are ground to a fine paste, the dough is slightly coarse when compared to the dough of tella sakinlau. Hence, karam sakinalu are slightly thicker than white sakinalu.
Tella (white) Sakinalu
Plain or tella sakinalu are saltine and, are seasoned with just salt and no chili paste or chili powder. These are commonly referred to as sakinalu.
Karam ~ Erra (red) Sakinalu
Recipe is the same as plain sakinalu but for addition of pandu miram (ripe red chili paste) to spice it up. When fresh, ripe red chilies are in season, chilies are ground to paste with salt and stored in the refrigerator for up to a year or even longer and used whenever required. Below is the video of my cousin shaping karam sakinalu.
Pachi Mirchi Sakinalu
These are also karam sakinalu but karam used here is green chilies. Recipe is same as plain sakinalu but green chilies paste is used to spice it up. Grind green chilies with some garlic cloves to a fine paste. To enhance the flavor, add some finely chopped kothmir ~ cilantro and green onions to the flour. Add just a few herbs as it gets difficult to shape a sakinam with too many coarse ingredients in the dough. These spicy sakinalu were not very common when growing up. It was always tella and karam (red) sakinalu.
How to prepare Rice Flour for Sakinlau?
Wash and soak rice for 3 hours. Discard water and put the rice in a strainer and keep aside for 10-15 minutes to drain any remaining water. Grind the rice to powder/flour in a mixie or send it to a flour mill. When making flour at home, sieve the flour, keep aside the coarse rice and grind it again. Repeat the steps to grind remaining soaked rice. Sifted flour is ready to use. One measure of rice yields one and half measure of rice flour.
When we made sakinlau for the blog, we only measured rice flour and sesame seeds. Seasoning was an approximate measure. This past summer during BM meet, my aunt and mom did a demo for the group. Then, my aunt gave exact quantity even for the seasoning. I will list both the measurements here and in the recipe card, will list the quantities my aunt gave.
1 glass of rice = ¼ kg rice = almost 1 ½ glasses rice flour
Recipe with approximate measures
2 ½ glasses Freshly Ground Biyyam Pindi ~ Rice Flour
1 glasses Nuvvulu ~ Sesame Seeds
½ – ¾ tsp. Jilakara ~ Cumin
½ tbsp. Oma ~ Ajwain
Salt to taste
Recipe with exact measures
2 ½ glasses Rice Flour
1 glass Sesame Seeds
2 tsp Ajwain
1 tsp Cumin Seeds
3 tsp Salt
Rice Flour to Sesame Seed Ratio
When I first posted the recipe, there was either a typo in quantity of sesame seeds or I made an error scaling down the recipe. I had 5 glasses of rice flour to 3 glasses of sesame seeds. When Valli pointed it out few months ago, I checked with both my mother and cousin, and they agreed that was too much of sesame seeds.
The ratio is 2 : 1 rice to sesame seeds or 2½ : 1 rice flour to sesame seeds. There is an exception to this ratio though. If you do not like sesame seeds or are a novice sakinalu maker, use 3 : 1 rice flour to sesame seeds. Though sakinalu taste good with lots of seeds in it and our family prefers it this way, it is a challenge to shape it. Those who are making these for the first time and/or not perfect in shaping sakinalu, use less sesame seeds. Go with 3:1 rice flour sesame seed ratio.
Sankanti & Wedding Tradition
It is a tradition to prepare sakinalu for Sankranti and also during weddings. One of the customs during the weddings is that the bride’s family gives sakinalu, sweets and few more savory snacks to groom’s family, who then distributes it among their relatives. This tradition of giving sweet & savories to groom’s family is called saare. Other snacks & sweets that aere part of saare are karijalu, boondi laddu, karapoosa to name a few. Saare palaharam (snacks) is usually big in size. Each sakinam (singular) can have anywhere from 21+ rows depending on the family tradition and little over a pound of rice flour will yield only 3 – 4 sakinalu depending on the size.
However, nowadays some people prefer small sakinalu and request the bride’s family to send small ones, as it is easy to pack, distribute and taste better than the saare sakinalu. This has become a lot easier on the bride’s family as making one saare sakinam takes at least 15 – 20 minutes and depending on the family custom, at least 100+ sakinalu are given to the groom’s family. These days saare palaharam is outsourced as many home run businesses have cropped up in many towns and cities who prepare such traditional snacks on order.
- Wide Bowl
- Deep Frying Pan
- Flat Plates or Spatula to lift sakinalu from a cloth
- Thick cloth to shape sakinalu on
Basic ~ Plain ~ Tella Sakinalu
- 2 ½ glasses Rice Flour
- 1 glass Sesame Seeds
- 2 tsp Ajwain
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 3 tsp Salt adjust to taste
- Oil for deep frying
For Karam ~ Erra Sakinalu
- 2 tbsp. approx. Fresh Red Chilies Paste to above recipe.
For Green Chilies Sakinalu
- Green Chilies and Garlic Cloves Paste to taste
- 2 tbsp of Cilantro ~ Kothimir Leaves + Green Onions finely chopped
- Soak rice for 3 hours. Discard water and put the rice in a strainer for 10-15 minutes.
- Grind rice to powder/flour in a mixie. Sieve rice and keep aside coarse rice to grind again. Flour is ready to be used.
- Here in the US, rice flour from Chinese store works well for sakinlau and ariselu. Ingredient list on the back of rice flour should say water and rice.
- Wash sesame seeds and let drain.
- In a wide bowl take all the ingredients except water and oil.
- Mix the ingredients until well blended.
- Taste flour mixture and adjust salt to taste. If you can not really make out, sprinkle some water on a small portion of the flour mixture and taste it. It is easier to season the mixture when dry.
- If making spicy sakinalu, add red chili paste or green chili paste in this step.
- Add water and make the dough. It should be a soft and not very watery dough.
- Spread a thick cloth on the floor or on a dining table where you would be making the sakinalu.
- Take some dough in hand a make a small human kind of figure, one dough ball as head and slightly bigger one as the body, as in the collage above. It is customary to make such figurine with the dough, apply sindoor (vermilion) and turmeric powder to it.
- First sakinam is made around this figure. This figure is considered to be goddess Gauri. Once the sakinalu are prepared, this Gauramma (goddess Gauri’s figurine) is put in the rice dabba (box) or in tulasi (holy basil) plant.
- Take a small gooseberry size dough in your fingers. Twist and roll the dough between fingers and make round circles. Check the video above or one below in the recipe card to see how a sakinam shaped.
- Repeat above step for rest of the dough.
- Once sakinalu are dry, you will know when they are dry, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, heat oil for deep frying. For this quantity of sakinalu, I would suggest making all the sakinalu before you begin deep frying.
- Using a flat plate, lift the sakinalu and transfer to oil. You can stack 3-4 sakinalu at a time and then slide the whole lot into oil at once.
- Depending on the size of the pan, you can fry more than one sakinam (singular) at a time. To maintain the same temperature of oil, always keep the flame on medium high – high. If the oil is very hot, reduce the flame.
- After dropping the sakinalu in oil, wait for them to float in oil and then turn them around. Keep turning the sakinalu for even frying on both sides. Fry until done.
- You can do a taste test to figure out how long to fry when you fry the first batch. Using a garela pulla (a metal skewer like gadget which is used to remove any deep fried food that has hole in the middle, such as garelu (vada), chegodi or sakinam), line all the sakinalu on the rod and remove from oil. Place this rod on a vessel to let the oil drip down into the vessel. If you do not have a garela pulla, a long metal skewer will work or a wide slotted spoon will work as well. Once oil stops dripping, place on paper towels or newspaper to drain any remaining oil.
- Repeat above steps to fry all sakinlau.
- When sakinalu are completely cool, store in an airtight container. These stay fresh for at least 2 weeks at room temperature and for months in the refrigerator. However, if storing in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature before savoring.
- Rice Flour – Here in the US, we can use the rice flour sold in Chinese stores. There are two varieties sold in Chinese store and pick the packet that has rice and water on the ingredient list. This rice flour works for sakinalu and some of my aunts use it to make sakinalu here. This rice flour also works for ariselu.
- Sesame Seeds – Use 1:3 sesame seeds to rice flour if you are making sakinlau for the first time and are not a seasoned skinlau maker. Use 1:2 ½ ratio for more sesame seeds. More seeds in the dough, challenging it is to shape sakinalu.
- Dough – If the dough becomes very sticky due to excess water in plain sakinalu dough, cover it with a dry cloth or roll it on dry cloth. The cloth will absorb excess water. If this happens with karam sakinalu or green chilies sakinalu dough, the only option is adding more flour. Usually cloth can not absorb as much moisture from spicy sakinalu dough.
- Salty Dough - Cloth absorbs salt. If the dough is salty, roll it on the cloth and mind you, this also make the dough dry. Add some water to bring the dough to the right consistency before shaping sakinalu.
- Time to Prepare Sakinalu – Cousin A says, seasoned sakinalu maker can shape 20 sakinalu in 10 - 15 minutes, about 30 - 45 minutes to dry and 10 - 20 minutes to fry, depending on the size of the frying pan.