How Crunchy Chikki Has Hacked The Indian Sweet Tooth
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Round, smooth, and with a taste like no other, the peanut is a global favorite for snacking. It’s in bars and homes, in jars and bowls, ready to be grabbed by the handfuls and gobbled by the mouthfuls. But there is one flaw with this iconic gift from the ground, and no, it’s not the allergy it causes in some. It’s that the taste can be blandly appealing when consumed raw. Cultures worldwide have sought to change that with unique local flavorings, sometimes mixing them with other ingredients to create new wonders altogether.

Such is the story of chikki, India’s answer to the peanut problem. While this land is known for adding spice to everything (and there are spiced peanuts if you want too), chikki stands out as the exception. This sweet made from peanuts and other nutritious ingredients is consumed in bars and small ball forms all over the country, with its popularity now spreading internationally.

How did this innovation happen? Why can’t anyone resist its tempting taste? Read on to learn the answers to this peanut snack that everyone has gone nuts over.

It all began in the nineteenth century...

When India was still under British rule. The then British government decided to build a railway line between Mumbai (then called Bombay) and a hill station close by called Lonavala. However, this construction was no easy task, as the tracks had to be laid across the Western Ghats. They are high hills that run along the western coast of peninsular India and are covered in thick forests and steep slopes. This terrain, along with the high heat, made the laborers weak, requiring them to have some energy-boosting food to keep them going.  

A local sweet shop owner named Maganlal Aggrawal in Lonavala took it upon himself to solve this problem. He brought together high-calorie ingredients like jaggery (deep-heated sugarcane juice that’s cooled and solidified), peanuts, and ghee. He called his creation Guddani, and it became an instant hit with the laborers.

Once the railroad was complete, it carried this snack all over the country. Railway officials exploited its popularity, turning it into a simple item to be sold to train travelers. Aggarwal was contracted to produce his sweet in large quantities, and the popular Maganlal chikki began crafting its legacy.

The secret to chikki’s success is its simple preparation process. Yes, this snack can be created by just about anyone (hence the many Maganlal chikki imitators that have sprung up everywhere). You only need a handful of ingredients, utensils, and even patience. The process starts with the melting of jaggery over a high flame in a wok or similar pot along with white sugar and water. (The sugar is optional and is a later addition due to the rise in the state’s sugarcane and sugar business.) This combination is heated until it melts and turns into syrup, but not so much as to turn dark.

While that is happening, the peanuts are split along the middle into two halves per peanut and are lightly roasted. This gives them a crispy texture and adds to the taste. These nuts are then coated in the sweet syrup, transferred to a wooden mold, rolled into sheets with a thickness of 6–8 mm, allowed to cool, and then cut into slabs of various sizes.

They are then either sold directly or in packages. The rolling happens by hand in homes and via industrial rollers in factories. The process only takes thirty minutes to an hour, minus the cooling period, which could vary depending on how it’s cooled.

Health benefits 

Peanut chikki is one of the most nutritious sweets you could eat. When made without white sugar, you get the sweet taste without the negative effects that come with refined sugar consumption. Even with that sugar, it outclasses other processed sweet candies on the health benefit front.

Jaggery is an unrefined sugar-cane-based sweetener that’s high in vitamins, minerals, and potassium. It lasts a long time, meaning chikkis don’t need preservatives and added flavors. Its sucrose content is lower than that of white sugar.

Versions of it can also contain other nutritious nuts and seeds, like almonds, sesame, etc., for added health benefits. It also contains proteins, healthy fats, fiber, carbohydrates, and zero cholesterol. The minerals you get include calcium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium. The vitamins are B1, B3, A, E, and B9. This all-in-one nutrient combo makes it a superfood.

Get Your chikki Right Here, Folks

The original Maganlal Sweets store in Lonavala is the place to go. There are many with that name, but the original one has blue-and-white signage instead of the typical red-and-yellow. The shop is close to the Lonavala railway station. They also sell their packaged chikkis in stores all over the country and beyond. You could pick one made by others too, everywhere, from small roadside tea stalls to high-end supermarkets. The ones sold in packages in stores tend to be of good quality.

The humble peanut has won the world over because of its versatility. With India’s special twist on its consumption in the form of the delectable chikki, you get the goodness that peanut has to offer along with the nutritional benefits that its associated ingredients bring. Its mouth-watering and health-building features make it a must-have on any occasion.