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Aliya LeeKong
Aliya LeeKong Contributor
6mo Brooklyn, NY, United States Story

I know, I say South Asian-ish here!  I grew up eating these beautiful, cardamom-flecked shortbread biscuits, and I mainly ate them with the East African half of my family (go figure!).  The whole time I thought these were South Asian, but when I went to research a bit more about them, I found out differently.  The name for these cookies, nankhatai, is actually derived from Persian "naan", meaning bread, and Afghani "kulcha-e-khataye", meaning biscuit.

I love that!  So many foods commingle and cross culture, and I'm happy these did.  They remind me of childhood days, nibbling at the dinner table with my extended family chatting away in no less than three different languages (unfortunately, I only understood English).

After many, many tries, I got these right.  They are buttery, crumbly, more biscuit than cookie and have what my mom calls this "warming" sensation when you eat them (which I call loads of butter...).  Enjoy!


Yields 1 dozen cookies (about 2” diameter)

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

¾ cup semolina flour

¾ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Crushed pistachios, for garnish


Preheat the oven for 375° F.

Using a stand or hand mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.  Add in the yogurt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, cardamom, salt and baking soda.  With the stand mixer running, add the flour mixture in 3 increments, scraping down between each.  Stop when all of the flour is added.

The mixture is very crumbly, so you have to work it a bit to form the cookies.  I like to use an ice cream scoop or spoon to get even amounts, and, rather than roll them between my palms, I pat them into round, semi-flat shapes.

Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and mark each with an X using a knife.  Bake for 20 minutes, and let the cookies cool before removing.  Garnish with crushed pistachios.

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Aliya LeeKong

Aliya LeeKong is a Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Personality and Mother with a passion for bringing global and socially conscious foods, spices, and traditions into everyday cooking and eating. Aliya’s cookbook, Exotic Table - Flavors, Inspiration, and Recipes from Around the World – to Your [...]

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