Growing up in Mumbai, chikkis were our treats. Local kirana dukkan (stores) had a assortment of chikkis available for a pittance. Chikkis are the traditional Indian candy bars before there were candy bars. PiPi (fennel candy) was our other delicacy. The simplest chikki’s are roasted peanuts in a gooey, crunchy slab of jaggery (see Making Jaggery). Chikkis are made with every imaginable grains or nuts including peanuts, rajgira (amaranth), sesame (black, white), coconut (desiccated), rice (puffed), mango, cashews, pistachios and almonds. The closest equivalent in the US would be peanut brittle, but the indian chikki is typically nuttier and crunchy.
Several years ago, my cousin introduced me to this tiny store [Gupta Chikki Mart] in Thakurdwar, Mumbai and I have been hooked ever since. Now I buy kilos of chikki to munch during my travels and bring back. Its a small store front on a side street and they make the chikkis in the front part of the store. Obviously they have nothing to hide. Chikkis are made in the evenings when it’s cooler and also lets them harden overnight. Be ready to be overwhelmed by the aroma of melted jaggery and roasted nuts.
This store was founded by the Gupta family patriarch who emigrated from Banaras (Uttar Pradesh) more than a 100 years ago. Now his four kids (Abhishek, Rahul – pic below, Varun & Gaurav) run this and the store next door.
Rajgira is a traditional grain called amaranth. It has survived millenia as it is an efficient grain crop growing even in harsh, nutrient sparse conditions. It has more calories that wheat, and also richer in iron, calcium and magnesium, and a worthy staple amongst poor laborers.
Here are the simple steps in making Chikki (see related pics below). You could even make this at home.
- Jaggery is melted in a sturdy round bottomed pan, called a Kadai.
- Stir in your favorite roasted grains or nuts. In the pic, Rajgira chikkis were being made.
- Mix well. The guy labored at the mix with his (super giant) long handled spatula.
- Pour mixture in a wooden tray.
- Flatten and then roll to pack to desired thickness (5-10 mm).
- While still warm, score and cut chunks.
Thats it. There is no magical, or proprietary, elaborate manufacturing processes. Also no weird preservatives, artificial coloring, chemicals or high fructose corn syrup. You buy what you see. Importantly, these chikkis are sold right where they are made. So there is no need to have a humongous manufacturing plant, and gas-guzzling, environment destroying trucks carrying these to distant corners and sell through middlemen. Why would you snack on anything else? Buy Chikkis!
My other favorite Mumbai Snacks: