Vella Cheedai / Hard Jaggery Balls

Vella cheedai for Janmashtami
Vella Cheedai - Above picture taken in August 2009

Vella cheedai - Picture taken in August 2008

Vella Cheedai is a yummy sweet - It is rock hard on the outside and surprisingly powdery inside. As kids we used to compete for 'The strongest Teeth' which was won by the person who managed to bite into the crust. For the weak minded - better break it with a metal pestle or a rolling pin before digging your teeth - this one is tough:) It is one of the easiest sweets, and yet I seem to make it only once a year on 'Janmashtami'! Do try this one in small quantities - you don't get them in shops.

Update on 14.09: Jayashree tells me this is available in Chennai during the festive season.

To me 'August' is synonymous with sumptuous food and yummy delicacies. August in India is full of festivals starting with 'Raksha Bandhan' (Celebrating the sibling bond), followed by 'Navroz' (Parsi New Year), and then 'Janmashtami' (The Birthday of Krishna), and of course 'Ganesh Chaturthi' (The Birthday of Ganesha).

Every festival in India is usually characterised by specific sweets and savouries. We Tamilians make several goodies during Janmashtami like Cheedai, Thattai, Murukku, Vella aval and offer Krishna his favourite dish - fresh butter. This year Lord Krishna had to make do with 'Nutralite' - vegan butter:).
( In 2009- he had to remain content with frozen coconut oil!).

This year I only made 'Vella Cheedai' [Vellam meaning jaggery], Vella aval [Jaggery with puffed rice flakes and coconut] and 'Appam' as I was too tired at the end of making these two dishes!! At such times I marvel at the energy of my Mom and Grandmom - they made everything and that too single handed. Probably the diminishing energy reserves have something to do with the pollution or stress in our lives.

Long back I bought a book titled 'Southern Delights - Recipes to Remember from Palakkad' by Parwathy Akhileswaran. It contains all the recipes specific only to Palakkad, my Native. Many other people have been asking me to get this book but I haven't found a second copy! It's a great book if you would like to learn more about the different types of molagootals, morkootans, the naivedyams etc. I learned to make many sweets from this book and this one is one such recipe. There are some very minor changes I made while retaining the original recipe.

Vella Cheedai by Parwathy Akhileswaran
(Makes about 35)
2 cups rice flour (I used organic)
1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered jaggery depending on the sweetness
(Organic is much softer and easier to powder)
1tsp white sesame seeds (Optional) or 1 tbsp. coconut pieces chopped fine
Oil for frying - About 2 cups
2tbsp - Nutralite or ghee (2 tbsp. oil works equally fine - tried in 2009 with good results)

1. Place the jaggery in a heavy wok and add a ladle of water to it. Strain once to remove any impurities and heat, till it comes to soft ball consistency. Keep checking as detailed below.

What is soft ball consistency?
Take a cup of tap water. When you drop a little of the syrup in the water and roll, the jaggery should form a soft ball immediately. If it melts, it means that the syrup has to be cooked a little more. If it solidifies immediately, the syrup has cooked beyond the stage.

2. Add sesame seeds or coconut pieces and nutralite or oil. Remove from fire and add the rice flour mixing to form a thick dough. Let it cool slightly. When it is still warm, knead well with greased hands, otherwise you are bound to feel the heat!

3. Form one inch spheres without any cracks and set aside in a plate covered with cloth.

4. Heat the oil and fry a few balls at a time, tossing them so that they are evenly fried. When they turn golden brown remove, and drain onto a tissue. Similarly fry the rest and store in sterilised air tight containers when completely cool. These last really long, but then they are so tasty - they don't last in my house for more than a day!!


1. If your syrup has crossed the stage of soft ball consistency add a little warm water, other wise the balls crack and splutter when fried.

2. If you find that the dough is hard, and not soft enough to form a ball heat a little water, and add a teaspoon at a time while kneading.

3. The dough should be not be as hard as the ones for 'mathris', but a little hard than poori dough.

4. I have seen that frying many balls at a time prevents cracking.

Jayashree From 'Experiments with Food' says -

I don't wait until the jaggery reaches soft ball consistency. I just boil it in water until completely dissolved and then stir in the flour and mix until it forms a smooth dough. That gives good results too.

Experienced persons may please offer any other variations in the comments. I will update them here once in a while!

These yummy cheedais are off to Mythreyee's 'Paajaka Sweet Series' event. Mythreyee started this lovely event where she showcases something sweet every month but with a theme. The theme this month is deep fried or steamed sweets!

I am also sending this recipe to Nags for her unique contest -The Saas Bahu Aur Sensex Contest. Look up the post - maybe you would be the lucky winner for two tickets to the movie - its going to be treat with Lilette Dubey and Farookhe Shaikh - two of my favourite actors!


Traditionally yours from Tongue Ticklers......

Atte Ka Sheera / Wheat Flour


Pal Payasam / Kheer

Gujiya / Indian Sweet Puff

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