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Unveiling Sharkara Varatti FAQs: Your Jaggery-Coated Banana Chips Queries Answered

1) What are Sharkara Varatti/Jaggery coated banana chips?

Originated in Kerala, jaggery coated banana chips or sharkara varatti is a sweet and mildly spiced banana chips coated in jaggery, and a popular snack served during festivals, celebrations, or as an accompaniment to traditional meals. The name "Sharkara varatti" is derived from the Malayalam words "Sharkara," meaning sugar, and "Varatti," which refers to the process of cooking down ingredients until they form a thick paste. 

2) Are jaggery coated banana chips a healthy snack?

Jaggery coated banana chips offer a range of nutritional benefits. They have 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. While jaggery coated banana chips can be enjoyed as an occasional treat, they should be consumed in moderation due to their high calorie, fat, and sugar content.

3) What are the key ingredients in Sharkara Varatti?

The ingredients used are not very ripe bananas or plantain, jaggery, oil (preferably coconut oil), some rice powder (to support in coating), and optional flavourings such as dry ginger powder, cardamom powder, or cinnamon etc. if you would like to add a bit of spice to it. 

4) How do I make jaggery coated banana chips at home?

Making jaggery coated banana chips at home is a delightful and straightforward process.  

  • Firstly peel the bananas, and slice them uniformly into thin slices (not too thin, not too thick), and deep fry them in oil, until they turn golden and crispy. 
  • Remove the fried bananas from heat and remove excess oil if any. 
  • Simultaneously or before, prepare the jaggery syrup by melting the jaggery with a little water over low to medium heat. The amount of water added will determine the thickness of the syrup and the sweetness of the coating. 
  • The next step is coating the fried chips while hot with the jaggery syrup. Coat the chips evenly, and if needed some rice powder can be added to ensure the coating is right and balancing the sweetness. 
  • You can also choose to add spices at this stage or directly to the jaggery syrup to add flavours. 
  • Wait for the jaggery coated chips to cool down and solidify. Once it is completely cool, store them in an airtight container to avoid moisture and maintain crispiness.

Enjoy your homemade sharkara varatti as a delightful snack or as a treat to share with family and friends.

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5) How do I achieve the right balance of sweetness in jaggery coated banana chips?

Achieving the right balance of sweetness in jaggery coated banana chips requires careful attention to the jaggery syrup and the frying process. Here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect balance of sweetness:

  1. Choose Ripe but Firm Bananas: Select ripe bananas that are still firm. Overly ripe bananas can be too sweet on their own, which might lead to an overly sweet final product.
  2. Prepare the Jaggery Syrup: In a separate pan, melt the jaggery with a little water over low to medium heat. Stir the mixture continuously to prevent burning. Adjust the amount of jaggery depending on your preferred level of sweetness. To check the consistency of the jaggery syrup, take a small drop of it between your thumb and index finger and press. It should form a soft ball without sticking too much to your fingers. If the syrup is too runny, it will not coat the banana chips properly, and if it's too thick, it might make the chips too sweet and sticky.
  3. Even coating of the jaggery on the chips: Once the chips are fried and still hot, gently toss them in the prepared jaggery syrup. Ensure that each chip is coated evenly with the syrup. 
  4. Adding rice powder: To balance out the sweetness of jaggery, rice powder can be added in moderation to the chips while tossing on the jaggery syrup. 
  5. Adjust Sweetness to Taste: Taste a few chips and assess the sweetness level. If they are too sweet, you can reduce the amount of jaggery syrup in the next batch. If you prefer them sweeter, increase the amount of jaggery or add a little powdered jaggery to the chips.

6) Can I use any type of jaggery for sharakkaravaratty?

Sugarcane jaggery and palm jaggery are the two types of jaggery that are commonly used. Depending on the quality of the jaggery used, it affects the taste of the final product. There are some jaggery specific to a region that people may use such as ‘marayoor sharkara’ which is known after the name of the place Marayoor in Idukki district, Kerala. 

7) Are there any variations or flavorings I can add to jaggery coated banana chips?

There are various delicious variations and flavorings you can add to jaggery coated banana chips to enhance their taste and create exciting flavor combinations. One of the most common is the spice combination. Incorporate spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger powder into the jaggery syrup for a delightful twist. These spices not only add unique flavors but also complement the sweetness of the jaggery and bananas.

Other combinations to try are, sprinkling coconut flakes or sesame seeds, crushed nuts or even with some chocolate drizzle.

8) What is the best combination for Sharkara Varatti?

The combination of Sharkara Varatti with other snacks or beverages can create a delightful and balanced taste experience. Here are some excellent combinations to enjoy with jaggery coated banana chips:

As a snack:

  1. Tea or Coffee: Jaggery coated banana chips pair wonderfully with a hot cup of tea or coffee. The sweetness of the chips complements the warmth and bitterness of the beverages, creating a satisfying contrast of flavors.
  2. Nuts and Dry Fruits: Create a wholesome snack mix by combining this chips with a handful of nuts like almonds, cashews, or pistachios, along with some dried fruits like raisins or dried apricots. This combination offers a balance of textures and flavors.
  3. Fresh Fruits: Pair this chips with slices of fresh fruits like apples, pears, or mangoes. The combination of sweet, chewy banana chips with juicy and crisp fresh fruits is delightful.
  4. Chaat Mix: Mix sharkara varatti with other Indian savory snacks like sev, murmura (puffed rice), and masala peanuts to create a homemade chaat mix. Add a splash of lime juice and some chopped onions and tomatoes for an extra zing.
  5. Chutneys or Dips: Serve this chips with various chutneys or dips, such as tamarind chutney, mint chutney, or spicy salsa. The tangy and spicy flavors of the dips contrast well with the sweetness of the chips.

As dessert: 

  1. Yogurt or Curd: Dip jaggery coated banana chips into a bowl of plain yogurt or curd for a delightful mix of sweet and tangy tastes. This combination adds creaminess and a cooling effect to the crispy chips.
  2. Cheese: Serve this chips alongside a cheese platter with different types of cheese like cheddar, gouda, or brie. The sweet and savory notes of the chips complement the rich and creamy flavors of the cheese.
  3. Ice Cream: Use this chips as a topping for your favorite ice cream flavor. The combination of cold, creamy ice cream and crunchy, sweet banana chips is a delightful treat.

Remember that taste preferences vary, so feel free to experiment with different combinations to find the one that suits your palate the best. 

9) Is Sharkkara Varatti vegan-friendly?

Yes, Sharkara Varatti are typically considered vegan-friendly. The primary ingredients used in making these chips are ripe bananas and jaggery.

Jaggery is a natural sweetener made from either sugarcane juice or palm sap, and it is free from any animal-derived substances. As long as no animal products such as ghee (clarified butter) or milk are used in the preparation of the chips, they remain suitable for a vegan diet.

When making these chips at home, you can use plant-based oil for frying, such as coconut oil which is typically used for making the chips, ensuring that no animal-derived fats are used. Additionally, you can verify that the jaggery you use is free from any non-vegan additives or flavorings.

10) Is it possible to store jaggery coated banana chips for a long time?

Storing jaggery coated banana chips for an extended period can be a bit challenging due to the moisture content in the jaggery coating. However, with proper storage and handling, you can extend their shelf life and enjoy them over several weeks.

  • Airtight Container: Transfer the jaggery coated banana chips to an airtight container immediately after they have cooled completely. Make sure the container is clean and dry to prevent any moisture from entering.
  • Moisture Control: Moisture is the biggest enemy of crispy snacks like banana chips. To reduce moisture, you can place a small, dry, and clean piece of cloth or a paper towel at the bottom of the container before adding the chips. This will help absorb any excess moisture and keep the chips crisp.
  • Avoid Humidity: Store the container in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and high humidity. Exposure to humidity can cause the jaggery coating to become sticky and affect the texture of the chips.
  • Frequent Checks: Periodically check the container for any signs of moisture or staleness. If you notice any changes, replace the absorbent material and ensure the container is tightly sealed.
  • Small Batches: If you plan to store these chips for a long time, consider making smaller batches. This way, you can finish them sooner, ensuring they remain fresh and crispy.

It's essential to remember that homemade snacks without preservatives have a limited shelf life compared to commercially packaged snacks. By following the above steps, you can ensure having a shelf life of a few weeks. 

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