Crunchy Mithai or just Mithai as it is called, was one of my favorite sweet snacks when I was a child and remained so to this day. In my early 20s when I made trips back to Guyana, it was one of the few things I brought back to the US. My Aunty Cheryl loaded me up with bags of her freshly made Mithai . This mithai had a great crunch but still melted in your mouth. It was the kind of of mithai that just got better with age, if it lasted long enough to age, that is. I tried for years to make mithai. My sister gave me a recipe when I first started my blog in 2013 and I’ve been trying to get my Mithai like Aunty Cheryl’s since then. Well today I am sharing a version of her recipe (with her permission of course).
Meet my Aunty Cheryl
My Aunty Cheryl is a culinary genius. I think in another life, she would have been a world famous chef/creator with multiple awards and cookbooks. The way she figures out ingredients from taste, smell and texture is a gift. If I could pack my bags and spend my summers, cooking, baking, creating and just playing in ingredients and listening to Aunty Cheryl’s stories of long ago and how certain foods became popular, I would.
Recently I spend much of my days trading WhatsApp messages about recipes and ingredients. They all start with a picture of some ingredients or a finished product and the text “Look what I made or am making today!” Then ultimately I respond with, “Please tell me how to make this!” What I love the most about how Aunty Cheryl gives me a recipe, is the stories she tells about when she first made a particular thing. Or her accidental discoveries that completely changed how she made a dish, for the better.
Aunty Cheryl’s Mithai Recipe:
This is Aunty Cheryl’s recipe. She told it to me with all of the tips and tricks over a few WhatsApp messages. And the first time I made it she told me my dough was not stiff enough because some of my Mithais curled up during frying. But she’s a patient teacher and then followed up with a, “But it’s your first time, so I know you’ll get better. Don’t worry.” Did I mention that I love Aunty Cheryl. This woman is living her best life, making pasta from scratch, experimenting with different ingredients and cooking and baking things I only dream of. She is life goals for me! Her recipe for crunchy mithai is a no frills recipe, the kind that street vendors sell.
Ever wonder why things that street vendors sell always taste better than when we try to replicate it? It is because we often, overdo with the ingredients. Street vendors are trying to make a living and don’t want to spend more on ingredients than what they can sell the finished product for, so they then to keep their recipes simple. This is one of those simple but amazingly delicious recipes.
Making the Crunchy Mithai Dough
The secret to crunchy mithai is in the dough. A spiced buttery dough is kneaded into a stiff ball. It is important to let the dough rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. Then roll thin, cut into strips and deep fry. Kneading the dough into a stiff ball takes time, effort and arm muscle. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, use it. Trust me it makes this recipe so much easier. The goal is to have as stiff a dough as possible, so not a lot of water or milk is added. Therefore it requires a bit more kneading to bring the dry and wet ingredients together into a dough ball. And once you get it together, keep kneading until it is a stiff dough and smooth dough ball.
Rolling out the mithai dough
After the dough rests for at least 30 minutes, I cut the dough into 4 pieces, then worked each piece, rolling out until it is about 1/4 inch thick and cut into strips. This makes the entire process of cutting, rolling and frying the mithai a bit more manageable.
Cutting and Shaping the mithai
I like to roll my dough strips for that rounded look. This is the typical shape of Crunchy Mithai in Guyana. So I cut my mithai strips a little thicker and shorter, then gently roll with my hands until it is the length and shape I like. Some people don’t mind the rectangular looking strips. In that case just cut and fry, no rolling is necessary.
To roll the dough, simply place one of the cut strips on a board, apply gently pressure and using a back and forth motion roll until the cut edges become smooth and rounded. This also stretches the mithai out into a longer, skinny, strip, exactly the way I like it.
Frying the mithai to golden perfection
It is best to fry this mithai on medium or medium-low heat. I keep my oil on medium heat and monitor how fast the mithais are becoming brown. If they become brown too quickly they will not cook all the way through. After frying for about 3-5 minutes, I remove one of the mithais and test it for crunch and doneness before removing the entire batch from the oil. To test the mithai I let it cool slightly, then break it in half. If it snaps in half with a crunch, then I know it is ready. If it doesn’t snap easily and is not crunchy then it needs to be fried some more.
Adding the sugar syrup and getting it to crystalize
A mithai is not a mithai if it is not coated in a light dusting of crystalized sugar. I’ve had many failed sugar syrup moments when the sugar didn’t get to the right stage (soft ball stage) and just sat on the mithai making it limp and soggy. All of my hard work wasted. I’ve since become an expert at identifying the soft ball stage. Click here to learn how. I’ve also invested in an instant read food thermometer and I think you should have one too. It is an essential kitchen tool. No guessing if the syrup is at soft ball or not. Just stick the thermometer in and record the temperature and you’ll be sure if it is ready or not.
After pouring the syrup over the mithai, toss vigorously to crystalize the sugar, forming a light coating over the crunchy mithais. I did this in 4 portions to allow for all of my mithais to have a light coating of sugar. Sometimes when working with large batches the sugar gets poured unevenly and clumps of sugar cover some mithai while others don’t have any sugar at all. I hated buying mithai with lots of sugar that you scrapped or dusted off while eating the mithai. Also another tip here is to make your syrup after you’ve fried all of the mithai. Cold syrup will not spread evenly and will form larger sugar crystals and make for really sugary mithias. Look at how perfect the mithais in the picture below are! I think that Aunty Cheryl would be proud of this batch!
The Printable Crunch Mithai Recipe:
- 1 pound of All Purpose flour
- ¼ pound of butter
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar (optional)
- ¾ cup of warm water
- 4 cups of oil for frying
- 2 cups of granulated sugar and 2 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Combine all of the dry ingredients (flour, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, salt and granulated sugar, if using) in a mixing bowl and mix together well. I love using a whisk for this step
- Then using a fork or your fingers, cut or rub the butter into the combined dry ingredients until a crumbly texture forms
- Next add the warm water and knead into a stiff ball. It may look like you don't have enough water for this step. Don't be tempted to use more that what is listed for this recipe. Just keep kneading until all the dry ingredients are folding into the dough
- Then cover the dough ball with a damp paper towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes divide the dough ball into 4 pieces
- Then working a piece of dough at a time roll until the dough is about ¼ inch thick
- Next cut the dough into ½ inch thick strips. I like to cut my strips in half so that they are about 4-5 inches in length but you can make your strips how long or short you like
- If you like your mithai to have a rounded look, gently roll each strip between your hand and the work surface until the edges become slightly rounded (see pictures above)
- Add 4 cups of oil to a large saucepan, then place on medium heat
- When the oil comes up to temperature and is hot but not smoking, add the mithai strips. Try not to add them in clumps as they may stick together
- Fry on medium-medium low heat until the mithai is golden brown then remove from the oil and place in a bowl lined with a few sheets of paper towel. The paper towels will "soak up" any excess oil from frying
- Repeat until all of the dough has been rolled out and fried
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan then mix together until the sugar dissolves
- Then place saucepan on medium heat and bring to a boil
- Continue to boil until the syrup reduces and is at the soft ball stage or 235 °F (see notes for testing soft ball)
- When the syrup reaches the soft ball stage, pour the syrup over the fried mithai and toss until the sugar crystalizes. I do this in small batches to ensure that all of the mithai are evenly coated with sugar