Homemade Sharkara Varatti-Meengurry Memories-1-Tocco

Sharkara Varatti: A Sweet Delicacy from Kerala | Exploring the Recipe, Ingredients, and Traditions

Sharkara varatti, chakkara varatty, sharkkaravaratty and sharkara upperi – the jaggery coated banana chips, fondly called by different names, is a favorite of many! Originated in Kerala, this sweet and mildly spiced banana chips are a popular snack served during festivals, celebrations, or as an accompaniment to traditional meals. You would most often spot sharkara varatti with the classic banana chips in your sadhya (traditional Kerala thali), and it’s not a surprise that these Kerala-style jaggery chips have a separate fan base! 

The name "Sharkara varatti" is derived from the Malayalam words "sharkkara," meaning sugar, and "varatti," which refers to the process of cooking down ingredients until they form a thick paste. Over time, these crispy jaggery banana wafers became a cherished part of Kerala's culinary culture.

Sharkara or jaggery has been a staple in Indian cooking for centuries. Known for its distinct caramel-like flavor and nutritional benefits, jaggery is often used as a healthier alternative to refined sugar. There are no historic accounts for how sharkara varatti is made, but we believe that at some point in history, the innovative minds in Kerala decided to experiment with the traditional banana chips, introducing the magic of jaggery into the mix.

The appeal of jaggery coated banana chips lies in their delightful balance of sweet and savory flavors. The traditional preparation of this chips is not just about the generous coating of jaggery on the banana chips fried in coconut oil, but there’s a beautiful mix of dried spices that gives a mildly spiced aftertaste. This is also a great way of balancing out the sweetness of the jaggery. It is a multi-step process of preparing the jaggery syrup while the chips are fried simultaneously or before. The thickness of the chips for sharkara varatti is a key to getting the right crunch and consistency. Unlike the original banana chips which are ideally ultra-thin, the one for sharkara varatti is not too thick, not too thin.

Homemade Sharkara Varatti-Meengurry Memories-1-Tocco

Beyond their delicious taste, jaggery coated banana chips offer a range of nutritional benefits. This delectable snack is vegan, gluten-free, and comes with a good source of essential nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6, supporting maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart function. The sweetness comes from jaggery, a natural sweetener made from unrefined cane sugar. However, consuming the snack in moderation is important to maintain a healthy diet.

Back in the day, going for a Kerala wedding also meant a delicious sadhya - the huge malayalee feast in plantain leaf, that follows. How sadhya is served is also an art, starting with snack, pickles, dishes based on their flavour, and then finally the rice before finishing it off with payasam. Because the dishes are served in a row, after the nendran chips, sharkara varatti and pickles are served, sometimes there’s a small lag until the dishes come. During this time, it’s a tedious task as well as a mindgame to ensure that sharkara varatti doesn’t disappear to the leaf next to you. Some of us usually finish the chips and sharkara upperi at a jiffy and wait for the next round. 

Sharakkkaravaratty is often consumed as a snack rather than a combination to a dish. Some also consider it as a dessert option. Although the basic concept of using plantain and jaggery remains the same, due to variations in coating styles, spices, shape and size, it can lead to slight difference in flavor and texture. Homemade jaggery banana chips can ensure the right amount of mix of spice and sweetness, and that oil is not reused while frying the banana chips.

This traditional South Indian sweet snack has captured the hearts and palates of generations, and its rich cultural heritage makes it more than just a treat for the taste buds. Jaggery coated banana chips beautifully combine the rich culinary traditions of Kerala with the goodness of natural sweetness. As you savor the sweet and savory symphony of flavors in each bite, you'll be transported to the verdant lands of southern India, where the tradition of banana chips first began. Whether enjoyed as a delightful snack during tea-time or as a healthy treat for any time of the day, these chips are a testament to the magic of culinary innovation and the delightful blend of tastes that continue to captivate snack enthusiasts around the world. Next time you visit Kerala or decide to try your hand at this delightful treat in your own kitchen, remember the heart and soul that makes Sharkara Varatti more than just a snack; it's a sweet embrace of tradition, culture, and love.

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