Chin Chin is a traditional Nigerian snack prepared using flour, butter, milk and eggs from which a stiff paste is made which is then deep fried until golden brown and crisp. It is quite popular across Nigeria and most parts of Western Africa. It is sweet to taste, slightly hard and may be equated to a harder version of a doughnut. Occasionally, the Chin chin might even contain cowpeas and at times it may be prepared by baking instead of frying. Ground nutmeg might be employed as a flavouring agent along with the other usual customary baking materials used in its preparation.
The normal practice involves the dough-making process with the ingredients combined and kneaded together to form firm dough. In the next step the dough is uniformly flattened out and small square shaped pieces of about 1/4 inch thickness are cut out. These are then deep fried to form the famous Chin Chin.
As such Chin Chin is easily one of the most favoured food items – a much relished African pastry which could serve as a dessert, snack and also as a popular street food. In fact, it enjoys a very special place in the hearts as well as stomachs of West African populations.
The Chin Chin is one food item that invites a great deal of flexibility in terms of the ingredients used and methods of preparation involved. While some like to eat it hard and crunchy, others prefer a softer, easier-to-chew version. The latter version might have baking soda, which may be omitted if one likes the hard and crunchy type.
Chin chins may be prepared plain with a typical buttery flavour or seasoned with a number of different ingredients to enhance flavour or present diverse products. Obviously it tastes best when deep fried in hot oil but the baking process effectively reduces calorie content for those who choose to eat it in that fashion.
Other than the typical square shape that is the simplest to make, another interesting adaptation requires pulling of one end right through in order to shape the chin chin in the form of a knot.
Ingredients and Preparation
White flour, sugar, butter or margarine, eggs, baking powder, salt, water, milk, and oil for frying are the chief ingredients.
All the ingredients need to be mixed together in a large bowl. The dough is placed onto a floured surface and kneaded until smooth and elastic. It is then rolled out to approximately 2cm thickness and then cut into small squares 2cm by 2cm in size. When the oil in a large pan or wok turns hot enough, a few of the dough cubes are placed in the hot oil. The chin-chins are deep fried until golden brown. They are then removed with a slotted spoon and drained on kitchen paper before serving hot.
A serving size of ~ 90 g provides-
• A total of 541.7 calories, with 211 calories coming from fat.
• Total fat content of 23.4 g, saturated fat 7.9 g.
• Cholesterol content is 83.2 mg.
• Sodium content is 830 mg.
• Total carbohydrate content of 74.5 g with 1.7 g dietary fibre and 26.8 g of sugars.
• Protein content is 8.4 g.
• Estimated percentage of calories from fat is 30.3 %, from carbohydrates is 61.9 % and from protein is 7.9 %.
Taking into account the ingredients used in making standard chin chins, it may be possible to enhance the nutritive value of this dish in many ways-
• First and foremost, baked Chin Chins may be a better option from the health perspective as they absorb much lesser oil and thus dramatically cut down on calories, fat and cholesterol content of the dish. Also low-fat or fat free butter must be used in dough-making. Only egg whites may be used to reduce cholesterol content by omitting the yolks.
• Instead of using white flour, whole wheat flour maybe used to give additional B-vitamins and some amount of fibre that is missing from refined flours. Additionally, some bran powder can be added to further build up nutritive value. Oatmeal powder is another wholesome option that provides excellent health benefits to persons with cardiovascular concerns and aids smooth bowel movements.
• For persons with gluten-intolerance two options are available -
1. Use of almond flour which is high in protein, carbohydrates as well as some healthy unsaturated fats in addition to dietary fibre. A good amount of Vitamin E, calcium, magnesium may also be obtained from almond flour. Also some folate, choline and B-vitamins along with iron, manganese and potassium in small amounts may be present. As a matter of fact, while almond flour offers ~ 5 g of protein/serving with 3 g of dietary fibre, in comparison, white all-purpose flour supplies only 3 g of protein with only about 0.6 g of fibre. This makes the almond flour a slightly better choice for individuals who wish to include more protein in their diets.
2. Similarly soybean flour may be used as a replacement for wheat flour for high protein value. Unlike most other varieties of beans that provide about 20% protein, soybean provides ~ 40%. Soybean products are proven to be zero-cholesterol foods, with perhaps the lowest levels of saturated fat content. Soybean flour is high in calcium, phosphorus, iron and fibre content. It also provides phytoestrogens that offer protection from certain cancers and helps prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.
3. Addition of cowpeas is encouraged since it is quite low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium; is also a good source of Vitamin A, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Manganese as well as a rich source of soluble Dietary Fiber and Folate.
• Certain fruits like orange, apple or banana can be included in the dough mix along with cinnamon or nutmeg powder. While the fruits supply soluble and insoluble fibre, Vitamins A, C, potassium, and other minerals, the spices lend anti-inflammatory properties and aid in better digestion.