Chak-chak is one of the most important parts of the intangible heritage of the Tatars. They believe that its bright colour symbolises the sun. Also, the shape of a small round cone symbolises cordiality, friendliness, and solidarity of the Tatar people.
Always a celebration
Imagine, no big celebration is complete without these golden pieces of dough which are fried and drenched in honey syrup. Chak-chak is a token of the well-being and prosperity of the inviting part, its cordiality and hospitality. There are many types of this treat. Therefore chak-chak is prepared differently for the wedding, for the celebration of name-giving, or Sabantuy.
The legendary chak-chak is also the national dish of several ethnicities. Despite the stereotypes that it is the national dessert of the Tatars and Bashkirs, various types of chak-chak are a part of the national cuisines of other peoples: Kazakh “shek-shek”, Lakian “chack-chack”, Kabardian “zycher’ys”, and Uzbek “Bukhar-calvese”.
Even in different regions of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, chak-chak is cut in different ways – larger or smaller, giving it a round or oblong shape. Sometimes dried fruits, crushed walnut kernels, and small pieces of chocolate or caramel are added. In Tatarstan itself, chak-chak is cooked variously in different regions. If in the regions beyond Kazan the pieces of chak-chak are often small and oblong, then in the south-east of Tatarstan they are quite large. Sometimes the pieces are round.
History of the legendary dish
According to one of the legends, chak-chak appeared for the first time among the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. The story tells it originated in the Volga Bulgaria.
The Khan of Bulgaria demanded that there be an unprecedented treat on the table at his son’s wedding. It should not spoil for a long time, and be convenient for a snack in the saddle. But also to be so tasty that the guests will admire and remember it for a long time. The culinary experts fought for a long time until finally, the wife of a shepherd presented the khan with noodles made from flour and eggs, thickly poured with honey. Khan tried and shed a tear. He wished his heir that his relationship with his wife would be as strong as pieces of chak-chak in a single mass, glued to each other and that they would have as many children as they would stick to a new delicacy.
Traditionally, chak-chak is a wedding dish. It was also prepared on some other occasions. There was a tradition of its preparation: marriageable girls rolled the dough and cut it, and young married women fried it. Then the oldest generation was engaged in honey filling and shaping the festive dish. Parents of the young couple, visiting each other, brought chak-chak as a gift.
How chak-chak is made
This is a sweet pastry dish with honey. Tatar chak-chak is made from premium wheat flour. Then raw eggs are added to the dough and rolled into thin short sausages or small pieces or balls are formed. After they are deep-fried and poured with honey mass. It is usually piled up on a large flat dish or tray. Small cones and heart-shaped figures are constructed from small pieces. Ready chak-chak turns out to be of golden colour, crispy and soft inside. If you wish to make it yourself, try a recipe.
Chak-chak might be stored for about three months. It is eaten with the hands, cutting or tearing off into small pieces. This dish is very high in calories, so it is advisable to eat it in small portions. Due to the high content of honey, small amounts of chak-chak are very good for health.
How to prepare Tatar chak-chak
Flour – 500-600 g
Butter – 150 g
Sugar – 150 g
Eggs – 5
Honey – 300 g
Fat for frying (preferably vegetable oil) – 300-400 g
Collect all ingredients. Eggs should not be cold.
Mix eggs with 25 g of sugar. Sugar gives the dough a pleasant taste and a golden shade when frying.
Melt the butter in a bain-marie and cool slowly. Please do not use it hot!
Add warm melted butter to eggs and mix.
Sift flour. It breaks up any lumps in the flour and aerates it.
Slowly add the sifted flour to the dough.
Knead the dough from flour, butter, sugar and eggs. The dough should be soft, but dense. Cover the dough and leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
Knead the dough with your hands into a layer 1 cm thick. Cut into strips 1-1.5 cm wide.
Roll the dough into ropes, about 0.5 cm in diameter.
Then cut the rope into pieces 3-4 cm long, forming small pieces.
Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or saucepan with a thick bottom. Dip pieces in boiling fat. Fry, stirring, until golden brown (2-3 minutes). Then take the pieces out of the fat. Please, be slow and careful not to burn yourself.
Fry the rest of the dough in the same way. Add oil to the pot as needed.
To prepare honey caramel, pour honey into a saucepan, and mix with the remaining sugar.
Bring the mixture to a boil over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. The sugar should get dissolved, and the caramel itself should thicken slightly.
Put the pieces on a baking sheet or a wide form and pour over hot honey. Mix gently but thoroughly.
Put on a dish in the form of a cone.
Serve Tatar chak-chak with tea and fruits (usually lemon slices, smoked plums and dried apricots).