Kul-Kuls are a traditional East Indian sweet made around Christmas time! This sugary shell shaped treat made by most Indian Christian households is a great option for a sweet exchange with family and friends!
Who doesn’t love these sugary treats! Not anyone I know 😉 Come Christmas time, people get busy making sweets or buying sweets and these Kulkuls or Carambolas are quite sought after.
Made by the East Indians of Bombay, Goans, as well as Mangaloreans, this sweet traces its roots back to the Portuguese sweet, Filhoses Enroladas. So for today’s history lesson, 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 or karamala, karamara back in the 16th century when they colonized Bombay, its surrounding areas, and also Goa.
Also called Kidiyo or Kidyo in Konkani which actually means worms, they do tend to look like that at times… Originally shaped to look like the Carambola fruit or the starfruit, nowadays, Kul-Kuls come in more shapes like shells or curls, each community having its own style. Most Goans and Mangys prepare it a golden brown colour, but some of us Eastyas like to add color to it. To learn more about how to make Kul-Kuls, follow our recipe below…
What Ingredients do you need to make Kulkuls?
All you need to make Kul-Kuls are maida (flour), egg, salt, ghee, sojee or rava (semolina), powdered sugar, coconut milk, and food colours and ghee for frying. Ghee should be available at your local Asian supermarket, but if not you can use a good quality un-flavoured oil.
How to make Kulkuls?
In a Thali (stainless steel flat vessel) add the maida, salt, ghee, egg, sojee, powdered sugar and coconut milk. Most people do not add sugar to the dough, but we a add a bit to the dough to sweeten it as well. Mix the ingredients well and form a dough. Cover with a damp cloth and allow this to rest for 2 to 3 hours, you could also keep it overnight.
Divide the dough into 3 to 4 or more parts depending on the colours you want make. You can leave it colorless as well, which will get you some perfectly golden brown kulkuls. We have made 4 solid colours and 3 marble colours. Knead the dough well so the colour is spread out.
Kulkuls can be formed by using a comb or a fork. The comb tends to make finer shapes as compared to the fork, but it does take a bit of time. So make sure you have extra hands to help with the shaping, especially if you’re making large quantities. Form small balls of the dough and place on the comb or fork, flatten the ball and then roll it outwards and your kulkul shape is ready. Its pretty easy!
You can also mix and match the dough to make multi-coloured kul-kuls.
For the frosting, add sugar to water and make a sugar mel (syrup). Allow this syrup to cool and keep ready for when you fry the kulkuls later. You can do this after you have made the dough and it is resting, this will give the sugar mel time to cool as well.
Once all your kulkul shapes are ready, heat the ghee in a kadai, and when it is hot add the Kulkuls to it. You can test a few to check if the ghee is hot enough. If yes, add in more kulkuls and fry them. Once done, remove with a sieve and dunk straight into the sugar mel. The traditional method requires you to pour the syrup on the fried Kul-kuls, but we soak them in the mel to make them softer and tastier.
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Christmas with the Rebellos:
East Indian Meals & Desserts from Abby's Plate
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Allow the kulkuls or carambolas to soak in the sugar mel for a little while, then remove them and spread on a thali or 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 😉
Serve for dessert or store in a air-tight container for Christmas. We also distribute to friends and family during Christmas week, right up to New Year.
Cooking Tips and tricks
- Add some sugar into the dough, so it has a sweetness of its own.
- Add color like we do. Why make the traditional boring brown color?
- Prepare the frosting either before you make the dough or while its resting, so it has time to cool.
- If you do not have ghee, use a flavorless oil.
- If you want softer kul-kuls, soak them in the sugar syrup instead of just pouring it over them as tradition dictates.
Other Recipes you might like
- Christmas Cookies
- Bobotie minced meat pie
- Savory muffins of cornmeal
- Walnut Fudge
- East Indian Guava Cheese
East Indian KulKuls (Sweet Shells)
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- 250 g All Purpose Flour (Maida / Plain Flour / Refined Flour) (All Purpose Flour)
- 1 Egg
- 120 g Ghee (Indian clarified butter)
- 1 pinch Salt
- 120 g Sojee Semolina
- 50 g Powdered Sugar
- 100 milliliter Coconut Milk
- 250 g Sugar
- 1 cup Water
- 350 g Ghee (Indian clarified butter)
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.
For the KulKuls
- Mix the ingredients and knead into a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 2 to 3 hours.
- Divide the dough into 4 parts and add a different food color for each section.
- Mix well and make small balls about half a cm in size. Press a ball on the fork or comb to form the shapes.
- Deep fry the Kulkuls in ghee for a few minutes (in batches).
- Take the kukuls out of the ghee, and straight away soak them in the sugar syrup. (This is different from the traditional method, but we learned it from mom. It makes the kulkuls softer.)
- Spread the Kulkuls out on a thali(stainless steel tray) and allow the frosting to set. Stir it around every 15 minutes so that the sugar frost dries evenly.
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- You can make the sugar mel or sugar syrup in the interval while the dough has been set aside to rest.
- Use an un-flavored oil, if you do not have ghee.
- Although the original recipe does not include powdered sugar in the dough, we add it so that it can be eaten without the frosting as well.
Nutrition (Per Serving)
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.This printable recipe card is for home use only. For more recipes head over to AbbysPlate.com
Although Sarah has worked in travel for 15 years and specializes in Africa, she loves music, wine, food, and travel. Armed with her Canon, she’s on a mission to photograph food showcasing her community’s traditional recipes on the blog. And Abby is forever grateful!