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What Is Boorelu?

Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Updated May 17, 2024
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Boorelu is an Indian dessert that resembles the American doughnut hole, with decidedly different ingredients. A popular treat for the Indian harvest holiday of Sankranti, boorelu hails from the state of Andhra Predesh, along India's southeastern shore. The traditional way of preparing this fried bread ball is with crushed dal. Inside is a filling that could contain many ingredients, most often a blend of more dal, the sugar substitute jaggery, cardamom, coconut and sometimes dried fruit.

The dal must be prepared well in advance of the final forming of these sweet balls — unless the cook has bought powdered black or urad gram dal, or rice flour, which is a readily available option. The only other route is to soak the whole dal in water for at least four hours, then drain and grind the little lentils into a fine paste. A dash of salt can be added to the paste, and just a spoonful or two of water to moisten the dal as it is ground. Just a little rice flour should also be added to make the batter more malleable.

With the dal batter resting, the boorelu's filling can take shape. Some use a paste of channa dal to form easily sculpted orbs, sweetened with sugar or grated jaggery. Into this mash goes grated coconut, cardamom powder, more salt, and small bits of dried fruit like dates, berries or pineapple. Tiny balls of this filling can then be rolled and dipped into the dal batter.

After the boorelu filling has rested and achieved room temperature, they are divided into golf-ball-size portions. These balls then wait for oil to heat in a skillet, then they are dipped in the white dal batter and thrown in the pan. In about two minutes, the boorelu should be tanned and ready for final inspection. Some sprinkle powdered sugar to make the dessert final; others poke a small hole in the top and smear in a butter spread, called ghee.

Boorelu would not be as enjoyable if just one version were acceptable. Chefs routinely swap out the sweet ingredients in favor of a savory effect. This means using meats, cheeses and more spices like garlic, onion, cumin and nutmeg instead of coconut, fruit and sugar. Chili paste is another option when attempting to accompany a main course with boorelu, instead of just capping off the meal with sweets.

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