East Indian Sweet Shells – KulKuls Recipe

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Kul-Kuls are a traditional East Indian sweet made around Christmas time! This sugary shell shaped treat made by most Indian Christian households is a great option for a sweet exchange with family and friends!

Who doesn’t love these sugary treats! Not anyone I know 😉 Come Christmas time, people get busy making sweets or buying sweets and these Kulkuls or Carambolas are quite sought after.

Made by the East Indians of Bombay, Goans, as well as Mangaloreans, this sweet traces its roots back to the Portuguese sweet, Filhoses Enroladas. So for today’s history lesson, Kul-Kuls, Carambolas, or Kormolas, is a play on the word Carambola in Portuguese, a Starfruit which is a tropical tree found mainly in Asia. The Portuguese most probably derived that word from the Marathi word karambala or karamala, karamara back in the 16th century when they colonized Bombay, its surrounding areas, and also Goa.

Pink, yellow and cyan frosted kulkuls in a white bowl.
Kulkuls: Too pretty to eat!

Also called Kidiyo or Kidyo in Konkani which actually means worms, they do tend to look like that at times… Originally shaped to look like the Carambola fruit or the starfruit, nowadays, Kul-Kuls come in more shapes like shells or curls, each community having its own style. Most Goans and Mangys prepare it a golden brown colour, but some of us Eastyas like to add colour to it. To learn more about how to make Kul-Kuls, follow our recipe below…

What Ingredients do you need to make Kulkuls?

All you need to make Kul-Kuls are maida (flour), egg, salt, ghee, sojee or rava (semolina), powdered sugar, coconut milk, and food colours and ghee for frying. Ghee should be available at your local Asian supermarket, but if not you can use a good quality un-flavoured oil. Find the ingredients you need at OnBuy

You might also need some of these cookware:
Bradshaw International Good Cook Stainless Steel Skimmer

8 in. Stainless Steel Plate with Wavy Design

The popular Starfrit USA Casserole 6 qt. With Glass Lid

How to make Kulkuls?

In a Thali (stainless steel flat vessel) add the maida, salt, ghee, egg, sojee, powdered sugar and coconut milk. Most people do not add sugar to the dough, but we a add a bit to the dough to sweeten it as well. Mix the ingredients well and form a dough. Cover with a damp cloth and allow this to rest for 2 to 3 hours, you could also keep it overnight.

Maida, salt, egg and ghee in a thali.
Maida, salt, egg and ghee in a thali
Maida, sojee, egg, ghee, coconut milk and sugar in a steel thali.
Add Coconut milk, sojee and powdered sugar
A ball of dough on a steel thali.
Knead into a dough
A grey cloth covering dough on a steel thali.
Cover with a damp cloth

Divide the dough into 3 to 4 or more parts depending on the colours you want make. You can leave it colorless as well, which will get you some perfectly golden brown kulkuls. We have made 4 solid colours and 3 marble colours. Knead the dough well so the colour is spread out.

Four dough balls with pink, blue, green and yellow food colour on a steel thali.
Make 4 dough balls and add colour
Pink, blue, yellow and green dough on a steel thali.
Coloured dough ready to be used
Blue, pink and green marble dough on a thali.
Lighter marble coloured dough
Mixed coloured pieces of dough and kulkuls on a white plate.
Kul-kuls made from mixed coloured dough

Kulkuls can be formed by using a comb or a fork. The comb tends to make finer shapes as compared to the fork, but it does take a bit of time. So make sure you have extra hands to help with the shaping, especially if you’re making large quantities. Form small balls of the dough and place on the comb or fork, flatten the ball and then roll it outwards and your kulkul shape is ready. Its pretty easy!

Hands using a plastic comb to form a yellow kulkul and kulkuls in the background.
Making a Kul-kul using a comb
4 colours of dough and kulkuls on a thali.
Coloured Kul-Kuls
Marble patterned kulkuls on a steel thali.
Marble patterned Kul-Kuls

You can also mix and match the dough to make multi-coloured kul-kuls.

Hand rolling yellow and blue dough.
Mix colours and make small pieces
Hands using a form to make Kul-Kuls with other shaped kulkuls resting on a thali.
Making Kulkuls using a fork
Coloured KulKuls on a steel thali.
Kulkuls made with a fork

For the frosting, add sugar to water and make a sugar mel (syrup). Allow this syrup to cool and keep ready for when you fry the kulkuls later. You can do this after you have made the dough and it is resting, this will give the sugar mel time to cool as well.

Water and sugar in a steel vessel.
Make a sugar mel

Once all your kulkul shapes are ready, heat the ghee in a kadai, and when it is hot add the Kulkuls to it. You can test a few to check if the ghee is hot enough. If yes, add in more kulkuls and fry them. Once done, remove with a sieve and dunk straight into the sugar mel. The traditional method requires you to pour the syrup on the fried Kul-kuls, but we soak them in the mel to make them softer and tastier.

Cow Ghee in a blue kadai.
Heat ghee in a kadai
3 Kulkuls in a blue kadai with boiling ghee.
Test a few Kul-kul in the ghee
Kulkuls frying in boiling ghee in a blue kadai.
Fry the Kul-kuls
Kulkuls in a sieve strainer above the ghee.
Comb made Kul-Kuls removed from ghee
Kulkuls in a sieve strainer being removed from boiling ghee.
Fork made Kul-Kuls being removed

Allow the kulkuls or carambolas to soak in the sugar mel for a little while, then remove them and spread on a thali or flat dish. Stir every half an hour to ensure that they dry evenly and get a good coat of sugar frosting. You can always test a few to see how they’ve turned out 😉

Kulkuls in sugar syrup in a steel vessel.
Kuk-Kuls in sugar syrup
Sugar coated Kul-Kuls on a steel pan aka thali.
Sugar coated Kul-Kuls spread in a thali
Colourful Sugar coated Kulkuls.
Kulkuls with sugar frost

Serve for dessert or store in a air-tight container for Christmas. We also distribute to friends and family during Christmas week, right up to New Year.

Kulkuls in a white bowl and stars on a black board.
Kormolas Kulkuls Kidiyo
East Indian sweets called kulkuls in a white bowl next to plastic stars.
Kulkuls for Christmas
Kulkuls in a white bowl with star on a black board.
East Indian Christmas Kulkuls
Colorful kulkul dessert in a white bowl.
We could just look at the colors forever!
Kulkuls in a white bowl with stars on a black board.
Indian Christmas Sweet Shells

Cooking Tips and tricks

  • Add some sugar into the dough, so it has a sweetness of its own.
  • Add color like we do. Why make the traditional boring brown color?
  • Prepare the frosting either before you make the dough or while its resting, so it has time to cool.
  • If you do not have ghee, use a flavorless oil.
  • If you want softer kul-kuls, soak them in the sugar syrup instead of just pouring it over them as tradition dictates.

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Kulkuls in a white bowl with stars on a black board.

East Indian KulKuls Recipe

SarahSarah
Kul-Kuls are a traditional East Indian sweet made around Christmas time in Mumbai, India!
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 25 mins
Resting time 3 hrs
Total Time 4 hrs 25 mins
Course Christmas, Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine East Indian

Ingredients
  

Kulkuls

  • 250 g Maida (All Purpose Flour)
  • 1 Egg
  • 120 g Ghee
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 120 g Sojee Semolina
  • 50 g Powdered Sugar
  • 100 ml Coconut Milk

Frosting

  • 250 g Sugar
  • 1 cup Water

Deep Frying

  • 350 g Ghee

Instructions
 

For the Frosting

  • In a vessel, add sugar and water, heat on a high flame and make a sugar mel (syrup). Keep aside for later.

For the KulKuls

  • Mix the ingredients and knead into a dough. Allow the dough to rest for 2 to 3 hours.
    A ball of dough on a steel thali.
  • Divide the dough into 4 parts and add a different food color for each section.
    Four dough balls with pink, blue, green and yellow food colour on a steel thali.
  • Mix well and make small balls about half a cm in size. Press a ball on the fork or comb to form the shapes.
    Mixed coloured pieces of dough and kulkuls on a white plate.
  • Deep fry the Kulkuls in ghee for a few minutes (in batches).
    Kulkuls frying in boiling ghee in a blue kadai.
  • Take the kukuls out of the ghee, and straight away soak them in the sugar syrup. (This is different from the traditional method, but we learned it from mom. It makes the kulkuls softer.)
    Kulkuls in sugar syrup in a steel vessel.
  • Spread the Kulkuls out on a thali(stainless steel tray) and allow the frosting to set. Stir it around every 15 minutes so that the sugar frost dries evenly.
    Sugar coated Kul-Kuls on a steel pan aka thali.

Notes

  • You can make the sugar mel or sugar syrup in the interval while the dough has been set aside to rest.
  • Use an un-flavored oil, if you do not have ghee.
  • Although the original recipe does not include powdered sugar in the dough, we add it so that it can be eaten without the frosting as well. 
Pinterest Image of Kulkuls in a white bowl on a black board surrounded by stars.
Pinterest Image of Kulkuls in a sieve and more kulkuls in a white bowl on a black board and stars.
Pinterest Image of Kulkuls in a white bowl and stars on a black board.

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