Down the south of Nepal lie lands of vast plainness rich in flora and fauna. There’s festivity all-round the year too, and having lived in the Terai for many years, how can I forget the wonderful cultures of the Bhojpuri and Maithili communities. Today though, we shall talk of a recipe predominantly from the Maithili cuisine that is an important part of family and friends gatherings. The Maithili culture as we know plays a vital role in the history of Nepal; its history may well be mapped through the Ramayana age as the birthplace of Sita and kingdom of Janak, and there are historical records of socio-economic and marital relations between the Malla kings of Bhaktapur and the Maithili royalty of Simraungarh.
What we are learning to make today are Pirikias or Pirukias (singular form: Pirikia or Pirukia), which are essentially half-moon shaped dough packets filled with sweetened and flavoured khuwa (or khoya/khowa as it is called in Maithili), and deep fried in oil. Instead of khuwa, some recipes call for flavoured and sweetened semolina (suji), and then in some parts of North Indian cuisine it is called “Gojiya”. This dish holds a special significance in Maithili household, as it widely offered to guests, relatives and in-law family members as “Sanesh” (literally translated as “a gift”).
Sieve the refined flour (maida), add melted vegetable ghee (dalda) and enough water to knead semi-hard dough. Place a nonstick pan in medium heat, add khoya (or khuwa as it is called in Nepali). To flavourify the khuwa, add crushed cardamoms, cinnamon powder, sugar, grated dry coconut, finely chopped dates, cashewnuts, almonds, and raisins. Mix well, and cook until the sugar melts completely and you get a sweet aroma. Set aside to cool. Now roll out small circular dough wrappers. Place about a spoonful of fillings in the middle of the wrapper, and seal it. The most common shape is that of a half-moon. After all the wrappers are filled and sealed, medium heat a wok-full of vegetable oil that is enough for deep-frying. After the oil is heated properly, deep fry the Pirikias until off-white or golden. Strain unto absorbing kitchen papers, and serve or store.
Now, let me share with you some helpful tips and suggestions. Start packing the wrappers only after the filling has cooled completely. If not, the heat and steam from the filling will be accumulated inside the dough packets waiting to escape and you will be left with broken Pirikias. Apply water lightly while sealing the dough packets, and use a fork to seal the edges of the Pirikias properly. This not only makes sure that the packets are sealed tight, but also makes a wonderful pattern on the edges. While deep-frying, the Pirikias should cook without touching one another. Also, to prevent damping of Pirikias, do not put them over one another after they are strained from the frying wok, until they cool down. This delicacy if properly prepared and stored can be consumed safely for upto a month after preparation, and is best served as a snack or tiffin for any time of the day. Better still, maybe there’s a special occasion in your family, or you were in need of a new snack for your school going children? So get out your wok and roll up your sleeves, and make some tasty Pirikias today!