Happiness is as simple as a kokis from Sri Lanka! Today, I am taking you to happiness!
Known since prehistoric times, it is called “the fascinating island” or “the pearl of the Indian Ocean” and owes its current name to a reference to the mythological poems of the Brahmins of northern India, who called this island Langka or Srok Langka, a Sanskrit term meaning “the island where happiness is obtained”.
Its more than 1000 miles of coasts with the particular shape of a teardrop, and its proximity to India have also earned it the nickname of “tear of India”.
This island in the Indian Ocean evokes great spirituality for its many temples and statues of Buddha and has a fabulous heritage of 2500 years of history: from monuments decorated with rich and splendid paintings to huge and beautiful statues carved in cliffs, and sacred cities in a very diverse and green landscape.
Sri Lankan cuisine
But it would be a big mistake to say that the Sri Lankan and Indian cuisines are the same, despite the proximity of India and its inevitable influences. The flavors of Ceylon are unique and have their own character. However, you will also find Arab, African, British, Dutch, Portuguese and Buddhist influences in Sri Lankan cuisine.
Throughout history, this island has gone through many events that have defined it. Sri Lanka has been a fundamental junction of the Silk Road and spices.
Most of the country’s inhabitants are Sinhalese who are Indians of Aryan origin and Tamils, a Dravidian population of Hindu origin. Merchants of Moorish origin, middle-class descendants of the Dutch, Portuguese and British settlers, as well as veddas, a native people, also live there.
In this unique and rare blend, everyone has crafted their own culinary habits and preferences, tailoring everything to the island’s resources, especially fish, exotic fruits, and subtropical vegetables.
With a population of many races and religions, Sri Lanka is never short of festivals and celebrations. Each month brings a celebration of religious or cultural significance, making Sri Lanka one of the countries with the greatest number of celebrations. The Sinhalese-Tamil New Year Festival, Avurudu, taking place in April is the country’s most important cultural festival. It marks the beginning of the new year and the end of the harvest season.
Kokis are the star of this festival whose tables are full of traditionally fried delicacies.
Note first that kokis are fried using a special flower-shaped decorative iron mold with a long handle called kokis achchuwa. Kokis would not be kokis without this necessary utensil.
How to make kokis
The first step of the kokis recipe is to prepare the dough with rice flour, coconut milk, a pinch of kaha (turmeric powder) and salt. Turmeric is used first of all for its taste but also to obtain this yellow color characteristic of kokis.
Regarding the amount of turmeric, I recommend that you first add the recommended amount, and then adjust after the first frying. The color of the dough is always a little paler than the color obtained after frying.
The dough should be well worked by hand until you get an almost creamy and thick texture that has the consistency of the dough of dosa, the famous southern Indian crepe.
Next, dip the kokis achchuwa (mold) in the hot oil before dipping it into the dough and dipping it again in the hot oil after the dough has stuck. Immediately after the kokis turned into a golden color (less than ten seconds), gently remove the dough from the mold with a wooden or metal pick. Then, fry the other side of the kokis for just a few seconds.
The mold must be hot enough for the dough to cover it properly. If the mold is not hot, the dough does not stick to the mold and the kokis will not separate from the mold when dipped in hot oil. In addition, care must be taken that the mold is not completely immersed in the dough by mistake. Otherwise, the kokis will not come off the mold.
You can understand that you must have some experience, be quite skilled and especially be focused to prepare kokis!
If this is your first time, I recommend to double the doses for precautions, as you may fail your first few attempts.
What is the origin of kokis?
Although kokis are considered to be one of the most traditional Sri Lankan recipes, they are of Dutch origin, as parts of Sri Lanka were under Dutch rule from the mid-17th century to the end of the 18th century. The name is derived from the word koekjes, meaning “cookies” in the Dutch language, a word that the Dutch use for their version of the famous “cookies”.
Kokis have another name, as they are also called achu murukku. However, there is murukku and there is achu murukku (achu means mold).
Murukku is a tasty snack of Tamil cuisine from India and Sri Lanka. It looks like Spanish churros but with a slightly crunchier texture. The name of the snack comes from the Tamil word meaning for “twisted”, which refers to its form. A bit like the shape of the jilapi from Bangladesh, or griouech from Algeria.
What are the variants of kokis?
An almost identical fritter recipe named achappam is also popular among the Christian community of the Kerala state in southwestern India. Achappam is an authentic traditional Kerala snack, prepared during the Christmas festivities. Achappam is the combination of two words: achu meaning “mold” and appam meaning “made with”.
Portuguese filhós de forma are also very similar to kokis.
Of course, not all the recipes of the above-mentioned countries use rice flour, and wheat flour is most often used. Some recipes include eggs and some do not. It’s a question of taste. A large amount of eggs will actually make the kokis less crispy.
Kokis can be eaten as much as a dessert as an appetizer and are most often served with kiribath, the traditional rice pudding.
For a sweeter version, simply make a sugar syrup and gently dip each kokis in it.
We chose to enjoy them hot in the appetizer version. They were delicious, crunchy, crispy … Now that is happiness!
This recipe is validated by our expert in Sri Lankan cuisine, Chef Niza. Chef Niza is the chef-owner of the restaurant Apey Kade in the Los Angeles area.
- Beat the egg and sugar for one minute.
- Add salt and turmeric and mix well.
- Add the rice flour and the coconut milk and mix well by hand (do not use an electric mixer).
- The consistency of the dough should be the same as the dough of dosa, a smooth and creamy mixture, more consistent than a crepe batter.
- Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a large thick-bottomed pan or a wok.
- Dip the kokis mold in the hot oil for a few seconds until it becomes hot.
- Dip the heated mold into the dough without immersing it completely and dip it immediately in the oil again.
- After a few seconds, the dough should come off easily by lightly tapping the mold handle against the edge of the pan.
- If the dough sticks, gently remove it from the mold with the help of a wooden pick or a stick.
- Fry the other side for a few seconds.
- Renew the operation until all the dough is used.
- Place the kokis on a plate lined with paper towel.
- For a savory version, enjoy the kokis as is.
- For a sweet version, dip them in a sugar syrup or honey or simply sprinkle them with icing sugar.
- Kokis can be kept for a week in a glass jar or a metal cake box.