October 24, 2022
In food writer Mira Manek’s family, the art of making perfectly crunchy chakri has been passed from generation to generation and across borders. Her mother learned how to make the ridged deep-fried savory snack that is “crunchy to the point of teeth-breaking” from her grandmother, who learned the recipe from neighbors in Kampala, Uganda. When Manek’s family moved to the U.K. after Ida Amin gave the Indian community 90 days to exit Uganda, they sent their brass chakri maker along with other kitchen essentials such as pots, pans, and spices to relatives based there.
“They would make all their nashta [snacks like ganthia, chevdo, chakri] together, especially at Diwali,” Manek shared. “It has been a ritual since my mum got married and even before. When we were young, my mum, aunts, and grandmother would make it three times, [also] before the Easter and summer holidays so we could enjoy them during the holidays. As we’ve grown up, it has become a Diwali thing only. Everyone, all the adults and children, look forward to chakri at this time of year.”
Chakri goes by many names — chakli, chakali, chakkuli, chakralu, murukku, and more — characterized by their ridged coils, although straight sticks are also common. Priya Mani, food scholar and author of A Visual Encyclopedia of Indian Food, described chakris as part of a larger family of savory snacks made with a cylindrical brass extruder with many perforated plates. Once the product of home kitchens, usually making a special appearance around Diwali, chakri has gone from a seasonal savory treat associated with harvest grains to a global snack sensation readily available on retail shelves worldwide.