Carambolas: East Indian Starfruit Shaped Kulkuls

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Carambolas are an East Indian dessert or ‘sweet’ as we call them that’s made around Christmas time. More commonly known as Kulkuls, this sugary frosted treat made by most East Indian Christian households are called carambolas when they’re star fruit-shaped.

If you’ve read our post on how to make Kulkuls you’ll know that this sweet is normally shaped like shells or curls. But they were also shaped like Carambola fruits or Starfruits, as their name suggests.

Kul-Kuls, Carambolas, or Kormolas, is a play on the word Carambola in Portuguese, a Starfruit which is a tropical tree found mainly in Asia. The Portuguese most probably derived that word from the Marathi word karambala, karamala, or karamara back in the 16th century when they colonized Bombay (Mumbai), its surrounding areas, and also Goa.

There’s a Maharashtrian version called shakarpara that’s similar but made without eggs and colorless.

Anyways, we make carambolas around Christmas for dessert, or actually around any other time of the year when we need a frosty snack. Here’s how to make our kulkuls shaped like star fruit or East Indian Carambolas, if you want to be specific!

What Ingredients Do You Need To Make Carambolas?

To make carambolas, you need the same ingredients you use to make Kul-Kuls; so it’s really easy to make the two together. The ingredients are maida (flour), sojee or rava (semolina), egg, salt, ghee, powdered sugar, coconut milk, and food colours and ghee for frying.

Ghee might be available at your local Asian store, but if not you can use a good quality un-flavored oil.

How To Make Carambolas?

Step1 : Forming the Dough

Mix all the above ingredients in a thali and form into a dough. (Yep, thali is what we call a large flat stainless steel dish, but you can use any large glass, steel or ceramic dish for the mixing.)

Sojee, flour, sugar, egg, ghee and coconut milk in a thali.
Add all the ingredients in a thali
A doughball on a thali.
Knead into a dough

Once the dough is formed, allow it to rest for 2-3 hours after covering it with a damp cloth.

Step 2: Make a Sugar Mel or Sugar Syrup for Frosting the Carambolas

In a deep pan or vessel, add the sugar and water and heat on a high flame to make a sugar mel (syrup). Keep this sugar syrup aside for the frosting.

Do this while the dough is resting because you want the sugar syrup to cool before adding the kormalas.

Step 3: Add color to the Kormola Dough

Once the dough has rested enough, divide it into smaller portions depending on how many colors you want. Add colour and knead each dough ball again until the color is mixed. You can make these carambolas colorless too, but don’t they look a lot more lively with color?

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Yellow, pink and red dough knead and kept on a big plate.
Roughly mixed dough colors

Step 4: Rolling Out the Dough Flat

Roll the dough into a fine layer a little at a time. Get to about 2to 3 mm thick. If you try to go finer, there won’t really be much there to eat, will there?

Also, remember to roll small lumps of dough as you are using them and then cut into small squares or even rectangles. You don’t want to roll all the dough out first or it will dry out.

Rectangular pink pieces cut and kept on the white paper.
Rectangular pieces for the longer shapes

Step 5: Shaping the Carambolas

Take one square or rectangle and fold it over crosswise. Holding the 2 edges pull it back towards you and while holding the other end and flatten both edges. And there you have the carambola shape.

Take a square piece in both the hands.
Take a square or rectangle piece
Fold the rectangular piece with both the hands.
Fold it over
With both the hands, pull the edges towards one side.
Pull the edges towards you
Turn and twist the rectangular piece using both the hands.
And the karambola is ready

Keep working all the other pieces of rolled-out dough in the same way till you have formed the rest of the carambolas.

Few pink rectangular pieces shaped in Carambolas on white plate.
Line the carambolas on a flat board
Pink and green carambolas kept on a plate.
Make different colored carambolas
More pink long shapes kept on a plate.
Made these from the rectangles

Okies, some of the shapes in the pic above are of the upside-down waves sort of kulkuls. We were making those at the same time. 😉

Step 6: Fry the Carambolas or Kormolas and Frost Them

Once all your Carambola shapes are ready, heat the ghee in a kadai (deep dish pan or wok), and when the oil is hot start adding them in. You can test a few first to check if the ghee is hot enough. If yes, add in more carambolas and turn them over every 30 seconds to fry them. Once done, remove with a sieve and drop straight into the sugar mel.

Once fried drained the carambolas in skimmer.
Drain the carambolas

Allow the kormolas or carambolas to soak in the sugar mel for a little while, then remove them and spread on a thali or other flat dish.

Stir every half an hour to ensure that they dry evenly and get a good coat of sugar frosting. You can always test a few to see how they’ve turned out, that’s my favorite part 🙂

Store the kormolas in boxes and serve for Christmas! You might have to add quite a few to the tray to send to cousins and relatives. It’s tradition, isn’t it? That’s why we always make a lot more East Indian sweets than we should. Wink wink!

Sweet carambola shells in a white bowl.

Carambolas: An East Indian Christmas Kulkul Sweet

Carambolas are a traditional East Indian dessert made around Christmas time. More commonly known as Kulkuls, this sugary frosted treat made by most East Indian Christian households are called carambolas when they're star fruit-shaped.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Resting time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes
Course Christmas, Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine East Indian
Servings 15 Servings
Calories 446 kcal
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  • 250 Grams Sugar
  • 1 cup Water

Deep Frying

  • 350 Grams Ghee (Indian clarified butter) Or Unflavored Oil


Prepare the Dough for the Carambolas

  • Mix the ingredients and knead into a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 2 to 3 hours.
    A ball of dough on a steel thali.

Sugar Syrup for For the Frosting

  • While the dough is resting, make the sugar syrup for the frosting. In a vessel, add sugar and water, heat on a high flame and make a sugar mel (syrup). Keep aside for later.

Prepare the Carambolas

  • Divide the dough into 3 parts and add a different food color for each section.
    Yellow, pink and red dough knead and kept on a big plate.
  • Roll the dough and make squares or rectangles shapes.
    Rectangular pink pieces cut and kept on the white paper.
  • Shape the Carambolas by hand by folding the dough. See more pics in my main post.
    Turn and twist the rectangular piece using both the hands.
  • Deep fry the Carambolas in ghee for a few minutes (in batches) and remove.
    Once fried drained the carambolas in skimmer.
  • Soak the Carambolas in sugar syrup and then spread them out in a thali to dry for the frosting to set.
  • Serve for Christmas!
    Sweet carambola shells in a white bowl.

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  • Make the sugar mel or sugar syrup in the interval while the dough has been set aside to rest, because you want it to cool down before adding the carambolas.
  • If you do not have ghee, use an unflavored oil.
  • The original recipe does not include powdered sugar in the dough, but we add it so that it can be eaten without the frosting as well. 
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Stuff You Might Want to Use

Large Wide-bottomed Pan (Thala)
Aluminium Kadai

Nutrition (Per Serving)

Calories: 446kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 91mg | Sodium: 10mg | Potassium: 52mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 16IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Nutrition Information per serving is estimated by a third party software based on the ingredients used, and is for informational purposes only. It will vary from product to product, based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients. Please consult the package labels of the ingredients you use, or chat with your dietician for specific details.

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Sweet carambola shells in a white bowl.
Sweet Carambolas ready for Christmas!

Cooking Tips And Tricks

  • We always add a little sugar into the dough, so it has a sweetness of its own. It’s not necessary, but we like it.
  • Instead of the traditional brown color, we prefer to add some Christmassy green or pink color to it.
  • The frosting needs time to cool, so prepare it either before you make the dough or while it’s resting.
  • Use a flavorless oil, if you do not have ghee.
  • If you want softer kul-kuls, soak them in the sugar syrup instead of just pouring it over them as tradition dictates.
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