One of the oldest memories of childhood cherished by me is of my mom’s carving thekua before chatth puja. Thekua, described by Wikipedia is a dry sweet from Nepal. It is very popular in Southern Nepal and in Indian regions such as Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh (Purvanchal). It is a revered prasad (offering to god) in the Chhath puja. It has been used as a sweet snack for centuries in these places.
Thekua has traditionally been made by a flock of women sitting together, carving thekua and singing local folk songs a day before the puja ceremony. The smell of ghee (butter) used for frying this sweet is mesmerizing. Flour, jaggery, ghee, dry fruits, cardamom and a tinge of mom’s love makes the perfect thekua is one which melts in your mouth as soon as you put it. This is an amazing sweet which does not require refrigeration and has a long shelf life.
My mom used to make a big box full of this dry sweet for me to carry back to hostel after vacations. She still does, even though I am married and have provision of making it myself but she would still pack a box before I leave home. This home-made sweet has been very popular among my friends. In my hostel, I had my friends coming to me to have this wonderful snack and my box would get empty in two days after returning from home. One of my friends, called it as the Indian cookie. She had come to me at the dead of night before the final exam. She was confused and very hungry. She knocked on my door and as soon as I opened she said “kuch khaane ka hai??” (Do you have something to eat?), I took her in, talked to her and we shared a couple of thekua’s. She loved it and asked for the name again, she could not spell it inspite of me repeating ten times….finally she gave up and called it the Indian cookie J.
Today, after so many years of my wedding, I made my first batch of Indian cookies. I called both my mom and mom-in-law. They both have their own versions of the recipe. I jotted both the versions down and made my own version. I took 500gm flour, 200ml jaggery syrup, cardamom powder, ghee, milk, cloves powder and refined oil. I kneaded all this together to make flat round cookie shapes and then deep fried them till dark brown. After letting the cookies cool off for about half an hour I tasted a couple of them with tea. It was amazing…it melted in my mouth and with tea tasted yummier.
I could not imagine, my first test lot turned out to be nice. Probably, it was both my mom’s praying for my thekua success. Now, I can make my own batches of different shapes and sizes and probably even try making some profits from them.
However, no matter how hard I try, the taste of my mom’s thekuas comes from years of practice and improvisation. I don’t know when will I come close to it but I will certainly make it for my kids in years to come and this will become a family tradition to send the Indian cookies with kids to their hostels.
In our generation, we work 5 days a week and then the 2 days have at our hands, we relax, enjoy movies, do some shopping, some mall hopping and prepare ourselves for the 5 grueling days ahead. And in this non-stop vicious cycle has stolen those heart-warming moments from our lives when Sunday meant Mahabharat along with puri-chhole in the morning and chicken in the afternoon lunch. When power cut meant anatakshari games and chuppa-chuppi (hide and seek) games. When chai meant chai-pakora, chutney, nimki, thekua and biscuit. At times, I miss those days, when we lived in a colony and mom did not have to call our neighbor aunty for play dates. We would barge in her house as soon as it turned 4 in the evening. When summer vacations meant mom and neighbor aunties making “aam ka aachar” (mango pickle), potato chips and papad in bulk at home. But things have changed and we have started buying everything off the shelf from big super marts.
Thekua, nimki, dhokla, thepla, samosa are all home-made snacks which I missed a lot when I was working and did not have time on weekdays and was busy doing nothings on weekends. But now, as a stay-at-home mom, I love experimenting in my kitchen and I secretly hope that till my son grows up I will brush up my culinary skills so that he too can boast to his friends that my mom is the world’s best cook!!!
Anyway, coming back to thekua, I believe, thekua will steal your hearts too. Even if you are watching your diet, a couple of cookies will not make a lot of difference. Infact, thekua is a much healthier option if you are planning to go for some junk snacks. So, I personally request you, try experimenting one of the home-made snacks one of the weekends, I am sure you will feel very good about it.
“Mama always said life was like a box of thekua. You never know what you’re gonna get.”