What Is Khurma?

Megan Shoop

Khurma is a sweet Indian dish that may be prepared as dessert or as the main entrée in a meal. This recipe varies so much that it may refer to a pastry or to a stew-like mixture made from sweetened milk, dates, spices, and sometimes vegetables. The pastry is almost always served hot, but sweet khurma stew may be eaten either hot or cold. These dishes are especially popular on festival days and may also be served to honored guests. Sheer khurma stew usually contains some kind of pasta, and is often sweet, savory, and spicy all at once.

Cardamom is a traditional ingredient in khurma.
Cardamom is a traditional ingredient in khurma.

Most kinds of khurma pastry start with about 5 parts flour and .25 part clarified butter, or ghee. The flour may be all wheat, or atta, flour, though some cooks prefer to use 4 parts atta flour and one part white, or maida, flour. Ghee is usually very soft, making it relatively easy to stir together with the flour to make a very dense, stiff dough. Oil, such as olive or peanut, is usually heated in a shallow frying pan and circles of the khurma pastry are dropped into it. The dough fries until it is golden brown and puffy.

Khurma can be made using either milk or a non-dairy substitute.
Khurma can be made using either milk or a non-dairy substitute.

While the khurma dough fries, the cook typically makes a simple syrup, called chasni, from about 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. The two are boiled together until the sugar melts. The chasni is then poured over the hot pastries and drained away. The pastries are allowed to cool slightly, and are ready when the chasni syrup cools and turns into a white glaze. The finished pastries are then served immediately — some cooks compare this dish to American doughnuts.

The second kind of khurma, the sweet stew, is usually finished off with about 4 parts milk. The milk may be dairy or non-dairy, depending on the cook’s preferences. Any non-dairy milk may be used, but coconut milk is traditional to Indian cuisine. The dish usually starts with a few large spoonfuls of ghee added to the bottom of a hot frying pan. Pieces of broken flat pasta, like vermicelli, are added to the butter and fried until golden.

Other ingredients are then added to the fried pasta. Traditional ingredients include dates, raisins, nuts, saffron, almonds, and cardamom pods. When everything is warmed, the milk is added and sugar is stirred in to taste. Cooks making vegetable khurma may enjoy also adding peas, chilies, garlic, and onions to the mix.

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