Chak-chak: A crunchy Tatar dish is a sign of love and strong family

Victoria Drey
Have you ever cooked a fried cake? Try this deep fried honey dessert and you will want to make it over and over again.

Lots of pieces of crunchy dough generously soaked in sweet honey syrup – that’s traditional Tatar chak-chak. In Tatar language, “chak-chak” means “a little bit” or “small”: perhaps it’s all about small pieces of dough from which the dessert is made. But some believe that the name resembles the sound of a knife cutting a piece of crispy dough. Well, no one knows for sure where the name comes from. 

It is widely considered that the recipe came from the Volga Bulgaria region, which is now part of European Russia. A legend says that the great Khan of the region asked his chefs to make a new dessert for his son’s wedding. The sweet dish had to be able to be stored for a long time, as well as nutritious and easy to make, but at the same time it had to be impressive looking. The Khan sampled numerous desserts but his choice fell on this simple sweet dish.  

Initially, chak-chak was a kind of ritual dessert that was cooked for major celebrations and weddings – it was served on festive tables as a symbol of good marriage, love and strong family life. Today, you can find it in many grocery stores all over Russia. 

Chak-chak is easy to make at home, and the best part is that you only need the simplest ingredients. Another great thing is that it can be stored for weeks. But I promise, you won’t need that much time: in my family’s experience we usually devour it very quickly.

Ingredients for the dough: 

  • 200g flour;
  • 2 large eggs;
  • 1 tsp. sugar;
  • ½ tsp. baking soda;
  • a pinch of salt;
  • oil for frying.

Ingredients for the syrup:

  • 250g honey;
  • 50g sugar.

Cooking:

1. Using a hand whisk or a fork, beat the eggs and mix the sugar, salt and baking soda in a bowl until smooth. 

2. Sift the flour on a clean cooking surface and create a kind of hollow in the middle; use around 180g of flour and then use the rest for the cooking surface later on. Carefully pour the beaten eggs into the hollow and, using a fork, start mixing it with the flour. 

3. When the dough gets thicker, continue kneading it with your hands for around 5 minutes, until it gets soft and does not stick to your hands. 

4. Round the dough into a ball, put in a plastic bag or container, and allow to rest in a cool corner for 20 minutes. 

5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and start rolling one at a time. Roll one piece into a thin rectangle layer about 2-4mm thick; then cut the layer into strips that are about 4cm wide, and leave for 10 minutes to dry. 

6. Dust the strips with flour, and layer on top of each other. Cut them crosswise into narrow pieces about 5mm wide: they should separate very easily. Repeat the process with the second dough ball to get many small dough “noodles”. 

7. When you are finished with cutting all the dough, pour enough oil into a deep pot: you will need at least 300ml for frying. Bring it to medium-high heat and test by putting one “noodle” into a pot: if it starts expanding immediately, then the temperature is right. Start frying the “noodles” in small portions – one handle at a time will be enough, the dough expands in size while cooking. 

8. Constantly stir the dough pieces with a skimmer while frying, and cook until golden – it usually takes one or two minutes. Place the ready “noodles” on paper towels to absorb extra oil and continue frying. 

9. To make syrup, just mix sugar with honey in a pot and bring to a boil on low heat. 

10. Simmer the syrup for a minute or two and quickly remove from heat. 

11. Transfer all the fried dough pieces in a large bowl, and pour the hot syrup over and immediately start mixing chak-chak with a wooden spoon to cover the “noodles” with honey. 

12. Then gently transfer the mixture on a prepared dish, dip your hands in cold water and shape chak-chak in a pyramid – make it quickly because chak-chak sets fast. You may decorate the cake with your favorite nuts. 

13. Some say chak-chak needs to sit for several days before eating, but it’s impossible to resist for so long. So, leave the dessert at room temperature for several hours, or put in the fridge if you prefer serving it cold. Enjoy with black tea!

Read more: 6 dishes that’ll make you want to learn Tatar and visit Kazan

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