The Indian love affair with fries and fritters is now known and enjoyed the world over. In the myriad ways India relishes its snacks alongside a cup of Kadak Chai (strong-brewed tea), one finds a touch of simplicity, of recreation, of an indomitable zeal to celebrate life. In Rajasthan, for instance, despite austere agro climatic conditions, people have found ways to incorporate whatever is locally available to create elaborate delicacies as well as fun quick bites. One such delectable recipe from Rajasthan that is hard to resist munching on is the Mathri, also referred to as the Mathi.
This flaky and crispy flour biscuit is widely popular throughout the North Indian states and holds a distinct socio-cultural significance. It is believed that Mathri originated in Rajasthan from a need to create food that would stay edible for days, especially during tedious stretches of journeys. Ever since then, it has become common for people in North India to keep an air-tight container of these biscuits handy during travels. Mathri also holds a mandatory position in wedding buffets and other religious and celebratory occasions. The North Indian Diwali and Karva Chauth are never complete without a plate of Mathri.
To prepare Mathri, thymol seeds, semolina, salt, and flour are mixed together with a small sprinkle of ghee (clarified butter). The crumbly mixture is stiffly kneaded into a dough, divided into thick round portions, and pricked with a fork on all sides to prevent the biscuits from puffing up while frying. The portions are then deep fried in oil till light brown and either served hot or stored away for future needs. Serving Mathri with mango, chilli, or lemon pickle is a common Rajasthani practice. In fact, Mathri is the ubiquitous accompaniment of tea in most North Indian homes. There are many flavoured variations too, which have become equally popular. There is Methi Mathri made with fenugreek leaves, Achaari Mathri made with pickle, Jeera Mathri using cumin, and Masala Mathri made with a host of North Indian spices.