Friday, 2 September 2016




          In Kerala, no banana leaf feast is considered complete if dual appetizers of crisp, sweet and savoury deep fried nendran banana pieces often called veliyupperi and cheriyupperi are not served. Of these, sharkara upperi is so tempting, no matter how much you make, it is finished in no time. In fact, its very taste is an adventure. Veliyupperi is also known as sharkara upperi, sharkara varatti or sharkara puratti. Here, I share with you one of my more precious recipes. Do cook and enjoy!


     1)    Peeled, fully mature, raw nendran banana – 1 kg.
     2)    Jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) – 500 gm.
     3)    Krishna tulsi leaves (purple indian basil) – 5 gm.

     4)    Pepper powder – 10 gm.
     5)    Ginger powder – 5 gm.
     6)    Cumin (jeera) powder – 5 gm.
     7)    Cardamom pods – 10 Nos.
     8)    Powdered salt – 2 gm. (½ level teaspoon)
     9)    Water – 100 ml.
     10)    Coconut oil or other cooking oil – to deep fry

To make:

          Cut the banana lengthwise into halves. Cut each half across into pieces of around 8 mm. to 10 mm. thickness (5/16 inch). Set a small pan on low heat. Tip in the jaggery and pour in the water. Stir occasionally till the jaggery dissolves fully. Switch off the heat. Strain and pour the jaggery into a wide thick-bottomed vessel and set aside.

          Set a wide wok or a large deep-frying pan on high heat. Pour in the cooking oil (you can deep-fry the banana pieces in a single batch if you use 2 litres). As soon as the oil is hot (it should not smoke), slip in the banana pieces. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, shell the cardamom and crush the seeds to powder. Chop the tulsi leaves to superfine pieces and set aside. Stir the banana pieces till the bubbles are very few and the pieces feel like wood as you turn them with a perforated ladle or meshed noodle strainer (take care to fry them till most of the moisture has evaporated, but not so late as to burn the pieces). Lift out the banana pieces and drain off the excess oil. Switch off the heat.

Now set the thick vessel containing the jaggery on high heat. Stir continuously taking care not to let the jaggery burn at the base. As it comes to a boil, tip in the chopped Krishna tulsi leaves, the pepper powder, the ginger powder, the cumin powder, the cardamom powder and the salt. Continue to stir till the jaggery thickens and feels gummy.

Now lower the heat and tip in the fried banana pieces. Stir well till the banana absorbs and gets coated fully with the melted jaggery (this will take around 2 to 3 minutes). Switch off the heat. Stir for a minute more for the jaggery to crystallize and then tip the contents onto a large banana leaf or on non-stick paper or on a stainless steel platter to cool. When cool, your delicious sharkara upperi is ready to enjoy. Store in an airtight container, if any remain after sampling!

Bon app├ętit!!!


          The sharkara upperi available commercially in bakeries in Kerala is prepared the same way, but with slightly different ingredients. Tulsi is not used. Cumin is also often omitted. Only 300 gm. of jaggery is used, but supplemented with 50 gm. of powdered sugar and 100 gm. of fine rice powder. The latter two are simply dusted over the jaggery coated banana pieces while stirring them in the final round.

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