What Is Ariselu?

J. Airman

Ariselu is an Indian pan-fried sweet treat that is somewhat like a crispy fried cookie or firm pancake. It is made with rice flour, sesame seeds and coconut that is sweetened with a type of unrefined sugar. This food is often flavored with cardamom, but can be made without it. Ariselu looks somewhat like flatter, darker molasses cookies sprinkled with sesame seeds. It can also be called arisa or athirasallu.

Ariselu is often flavored with cardamom.
Ariselu is often flavored with cardamom.

To prepare the rice into flour for ariselu, it is traditionally soaked overnight, then drained of water and blended in the morning. When this dish needs to be made more quickly, the rice can be soaked for less time, generally a minimum of 20 minutes to two hours, before it is drained and blended. The amount of time the rice needs to soak depends on the rice; larger-grained rice or rice that is drier may need a longer soak. When rice flour is properly prepared for ariselu, it remains slightly damp before use.

Ariselu is popular in many parts of India.
Ariselu is popular in many parts of India.

This dish starts by cooking the sugar in water at a low heat until it forms a thick syrup. The type of sugar used in this dish is called jaggery, an unrefined form of cane or palm sugar often sold in rounded blocks that look somewhat like cones with the tops lobbed off. Since jaggery sugar is unrefined, it can contain some solid matter that will float on the surface of the syrup. These should be removed before continuing with preparation.

After the jaggery syrup is formed, the cook should slowly stir rice flour into the mixture until it forms a smooth dough like pancake batter. The mixture is then removed from the heat before spices and sesame seeds are added. Dough is kneaded, refrigerated and rolled into balls for storage, then flattened before it is fried. In most households, the dough for ariselu is pre-prepared and chilled for quick fresh frying. Though they do not necessarily have to be, the dough balls that make ariselu are often formed on banana leaves.

This dish is made for Makar Sakranti, a festival that occurs 21 days after the shortest day of the year, known as Winter Solstice. Though this particular dish is a recipe most common to northern and eastern-central India, similar dishes by other names are popular in other parts of India. A related dish called athirasam is served in Tamil Nadu, a state in southeast India. The main difference between ariselu and athirasam is the addition of sesame seeds and coconut in ariselu.

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