I am one to think that the name of a dish can make someone want to eat it or not. The more catchy the name, the more likely it is for somebody to eat something. Nigerians have come up with the most fun words for food. They have a huge collection of names where the word is composed of 2 identical syllables. Chin Chin is only one of them. Yesterday’s post was about Dodo, and the day before that Fufu, but there’s also Moimoi, Puff Puff, Kuli Kuli, Dun Dun, etc.
There’s power in this words. It makes the experience of eating them a jolly experience, even when the food itself is a humble fruit or a simple 4 ingredient cookie like Chin Chin. Its name for me sounds exactly like the way it looks, something tiny. Maybe I’m biased with a previous concept of the word, maybe what I know to be a chinchin came exactly from this dish without my knowledge.
In Puerto Rico our main language is spanish. However, it is splashed with a colorful and diverse myriad of words from African, Portuguese, French, Arabic and English origin. When somebody tells me certain questions like: “Would you like some coffee?”or “Does your feet hurt?” I may answer them by saying: “Si, un chin” or “Si, un chinchin”; meaning, “Yes, just little bit”.
But where exactly does this word comes from? Is it possible it is from our African heritage? Maybe I’ll never know, but Nigerian Chin Chin certainly is something cute and tiny. Exactly what we mean when we say the word. It is also very simple in terms of taste and cooking.
Chin Chin is just the Nigerian version of a short dough cookie, but instead of baking the dough, it is more commonly fried. Another difference is the low amount of sugar used and its use. Nigerians don’t typically have sweets after a meal like we do at home. Those who indulge in such practices are frowned upon and called Oyibo (White man!).
Nevertheless, they do have sweet recipes in their repertoire, but these are served as snacks or appetizers, not at the end of meals. There’s no birthday party or wedding or get-together that doesn’t have somewhere a plate full of Chin Chin for people to munch on. They have this fatty, rich and slightly sweet taste that goes with whatever you serve it with. Their crunchy like a cracker texture, and cake like taste have places Chin Chin high in the ranks of favourite treats of Nigeria.
Since I’m Oyibo, like something sweet after my meals and I’m sure nobody will look at me weird for craving a sweet after a wonderful fufu platter, I decided to make Chin Chin with a twist. I’m not the first to do this. There’s for example this company who sells this tasty snack in many different flavors Vanilla, Chilli, Cinnamon, Lemon, etc. They’ve had wonderful results and they all sound delicious. So I added some nutmeg and orange zest, also found in other Nigerian dishes, to bring it closer to a dessert. I also served them with sweetened condensed milk to dip the Chin Chin in. Was it good? Well… I couldn’t have only a Chin Chin of the Chin Chin…
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- zest of 1 orange
- 1/3 cup ghee or butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 qt oil for deep frying
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (optional)
- ground cinnamon for garnish (optional)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attached, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Mix well on low speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.
- Add the butter, keep mixing at low for 2 more minutes.
- Slowly add the milk while mixing at low speed. When the dough looks homogeneous, turn the speed up to a medium and knead dough for 8 minutes, until it becomes very smooth.
- Turn the dough out into a cutting board. With clean hands shape it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.
- Remove from plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a square piece that is about 1/2 inch thick.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 1 1/2 inches wide strips. Then cut the strips into small squares.
- Heat the frying oil in a deep fryer at medium heat. Add half of the Chin Chin squares to the oil to fry. Use a slotted spoon to grab the dough pieces inside the oil and shake them to keep them from sticking together. Once they start floating they won't stick any more.
- Wait until they are nice and golden, about 6 minutes. Remove from the oil and place in a plate covered with paper towels to drain excess oil.
- Repeat the frying process with the rest of the dough.
- Serve by themselves or with a small bowl filled with condensed milk sprinkled with ground cinnamon.
- Chin Chin has a good shelf life. You can make it in advance and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.