Biscuits Shakapara

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by ceolredmonger, Feb 9, 2012.

  1. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I am looking into rations in the Burma campaign. In the Composite ration pack 'Indian Packed', both for British and Indian troops 'Biscuits Shakapara' feature prominently. Google brings up definitions and modern recipes for these as a form of deep fried donoughts. Does anyone have knowledge of the wartime version please? I will be meeting veterans in April however some ideas would be useful.

    Keith Matthews
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Keith,

    I cannot give a definitive answer to this question, but the rations sent out to Chindits and other units in 1943-45 included a form of biscuit, which in some books was named as 'Shakapara' or 'shakapura'.

    These biscuits were always described as worse than dog biscuits in standard and certainly as hard to eat. Most of the men used them mixed with water or tea, or made various porridge type meals using the moistened biscuit. Weevils seem to be a constant addition to the joy of eating these snacks.

    Hope this helps a little.

  3. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Thanks Steve
    Partly answering my own question - from Field Service Hygiene Notes, India, 1945 - Inspection of Foodstuffs:

    '178. Biscuits - the standard ration biscuit in India is the Shakapara biscuit, which is made of atta, semolina, bran, sugar, hydrogenated oil, salt, milk, water and bicarbonate of ammonia. On examination of biscuits, note should be made of appearence, colour, odour, crispness, hardness, palatability and the presence or absence of parasites. The commonest defects are rancidity, mustiness, softness and the presence of moulds'

    Scrummy! Compo rations IP A-F included 20x4oz packs (and 2x6oz Biscuits Service). Anyone know what they looked like or how they were packed?

  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Keith,

    From a 1943 Chindit perspective the biscuits formed part of the ration packages/tins dropped from the air by Hudson and Dakota planes. Wingate based these on the commando or paratrooper ration packs suited for short forays into enemy territory, probably lasting no longer than three days.

    Men (if they were lucky) received up to 5 days supply, which would be three packs per day. This was easily the greater part of a man's backpack in weight.

    The packs were similar in a way to what we are treated to on commercial airline travel today. Here is a typical contents for a 1943 pack, taken from the book 'Fire in the night':

    12oz biscuit
    2oz processed cheese
    9oz compressed almonds and raisins
    1oz chocolate/acid drops
    1oz tea
    1oz powdered milk
    4oz sugar
    Small amount of salt
    20 cigarettes.

    Wingate was disgusted by the inclusion of the latter, but it was thought the cigarettes would keep up the morale of the smokers. Wingate also was a total fan of the 'Shakapura' for it's benefits of keeping the bowels open.

    Attached is the only image I have seen of an Emergency Ration Tin. Whether these are the type described above I'm not entirely sure.


    Attached Files:

  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    The tin is probably the Emergency Ration (Standard), described as "about 6-oz. of a solid mixture of the chocolate type, issued to all men serving overseas for use in emergency only."
  6. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Idler is correct. That is an individual Emergency Ration tin of fortified chocolate.

    The source I cited above implies lists: "The jungle ration Mark 1 (Packed in the U.K.)" which includes the standard oatmeal blocks and biscuits. and "Light scale ration (Indian packed) which has "Shakapara biscuits" for both the British Troops and Indian Troops versions.
  7. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Idler is correct. That is an individual Emergency Ration tin of fortified chocolate.

    The source I cited above implies lists: "The jungle ration Mark 1 (Packed in the U.K.)" which includes the standard oatmeal blocks and biscuits. and "Light scale ration (Indian packed) which has "Shakapara biscuits" for both the British Troops and Indian Troops versions.

    Well at least that answers that one for me.:) The men used to complain bitterly if their particular tin featured the acid drops rather than the chocolate. One of their culinary creations with the above ingredients was 'Chocolate lob'. This was the biscuit, nuts and raisins and the precious chocolate all mixed up together in a thick paste.

    There were frequent swapping periods directly after Air supply drops when non smokers would exchange cigarettes for chocolate or sweets.
  8. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

    "shakapara burma army rations" as a search turned up an odd reference to "tropical sprue" which sounds very Chindit...


    The "search" intimates the biscuits but is not on the intro page, as it invites you to "purchase" the article - it may be worth further investigation though...

    Welcome to the mixer... ;)
  9. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    I had read that there were boiled sweet filled Emergency Ration tins although have never seen one, I have seen many of the similar sized tins marked 'boiled sweets'. I have seen lots of chocolate filled versions (and have tasted the chocolate).
    The quote below may be of interest:

    Again from Field Service Hygiene Notes 1945:

    168. Special Ration Packs. - Three main categories are used, as follows :-
    (a) Emergency rations, meant for use literally "in emergency only". These are meant for carriage on the man and usually provide about 1,000 calories without special regard to nutritive value as a whole.
    (b) Light rations, which are intended for anything from 24 or 48 hours of an assault to a jungle patrol lasting several days. Calorie values vary from 2,500 (suitable for 24 to 48 hours only) to 4, 300 calories (suitable for parachutists etc., who may be self supporting for a week or 10 days). Weights vary from 32 oz. to 50 oz. per ration. Such rations have been used over a period of 3 or 4 months, by the long range penetration groups, but in this case arrangements must be made to provide additional supplies of food (preferably fresh varieties) at suitable intervals, or to live "off the country" to some extent.
    (c) Composite pack rations, ..... (I assume that these are well enough known not to have to describe KM)..

    169. Certain special rations. - A variety of special packs, manufactured in different countries, has been devised. The nutritive value of these is given in the table on page 125; but, since the whole position is constantly changing, no useful purpose is served by giving detailed account of each. The following table gives details of five rations as examples.

    Australian emergency ration (new type)
    Vitiminized chocolate
    Fruit and nut
    Prune blocks
    Sugar tablets
    Tea tablets
    Salt tablets
    Size: 5 1/4" x 4 1/4" x 15/16" Gross weight : 17 1/2 oz. Calorie value : 1,400 approx.

    The jungle ration Mark 1. (Packed in U.K.)
    Consists of a tin container with the main items of food. Tinned meat and cigarettes are provided separately in the master packs.
    In food tin
    Oatmeal blocks (2) 3 ½ oz.
    Biscuits (10) 8 ½ oz.
    Raisin chocolate (2 bars) 4 oz.
    Vitiminized chocolate (1 bar) 2 oz.
    Condensed milk (1 tube) 1 ½ oz.
    Tea tablets (12) ½ oz.
    Sweets, boiled 2 oz.
    Jam (1 tin) 2 oz.
    Fizz tablets (12)
    Chewing gum (4 tablets)
    Sugar cubes (4) ½ oz
    Cheese (1 tin) 1 ½ oz.
    Salt (1 pkt) ¼ oz.
    Salt tablets (30) ¾ oz.
    Compound vitamin tablet 1 tablet
    Latrine paper 4 sheets
    Matches 1 booklet

    Separate –
    Meat tinned (1 tin) 12 oz.
    Cigarettes (flat ‘20’ tin) No. 10
    Size : Food tin 6 ¾ ” x 5 1/8” x 2 5/16”. Standard bully beef tin and cigarettes provided separately.
    Gross weight : - 50 oz.
    Calorie value : - 4,200 approx.

    Light scale ration (Indian packed).
    These are packed in light cardboard cartons wrapped in waxed paper, each containing rations for 24 hours. The contents are different for British and for Indian troops :-
    B.T. I.T
    Shakapara biscuits (12) 12 oz. 12 oz.
    Chocolate (pkt) 2 oz. 2 oz.
    Beef or mutton, tinned (1) 12 oz.
    Milk tinned, sweetened (1) 14 oz. (a)
    Or Sardines tinned (2) 6 ½ oz.
    Or Snoek tinned (1) 8 oz.
    Cheese tinned (1) 4 oz. 4 oz.
    Sugar (1 bag) 5 oz. 5 oz.
    Milk powder (1 bag) 1 oz. 1 oz.
    Tea (1 bag) ¾ oz. ¾ oz.
    Salt 1 oz. salt refined and 8 salt tablets
    Compound vitamin tablet 1 tab 1 tab
    Cigarettes 10 cigs. 10 cigs.
    Matches 1 box 1 box
    Toilet paper 5 sheets 5 sheets
    (a) Of every five I.T. rations, three will contain milk and two tinned fish. This proportion of milk to fish is designed to attain the necessary average weight and nutritive value.

    Composite ration pack – British troops (8 men)
    (continues to list contents for this and the I.T. version KM)…

    I trust that this is of interest
  10. ceolredmonger

    ceolredmonger Member

    Just to clarify the last list - posting has messed up the spacing. The first weight is for British troops, the second for Indian troops. They are the same except for the meat/ milk and fish.
  11. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review...

  12. idler

    idler GeneralList

    It's still a 'no', but I have found some interesting background information.

    From Indian Army Instruction 277/1919:

    Shakapara Paste 1919.jpg

    As always, there are more questions than answers. Are the troops issued with a finished foodstuff cooked from the paste,or a prepared paste and firewood to cook it, or the dry ingredients to make the paste and the firewood to cook it? It would make more sense for the regimental cooks to do the hard work and issue the finished biscuits(?) on the assumption they'd keep for the duration of the journey.

    I have to assume they'd be baked (though I'm not entirely convinced this would be a standard technique for the cooks in either wheat- or rice-eating areas) or cooked dry on a hotplate like chappattis as only the wheat ration includes ghee and then not enough to deep fry the ration in the manner of modern shakarpura.

    From part of the editorial from the United Service Institution of India Journal, April 1932:

    1932 04 USIJ Editorial Dry Rations.jpg
    Again, nothing on the method but the use of unit cooks might argue against baking.

    Finally, an extract from (ignore the filename) Solah Punjab pertaining to 2/16 Punjab Regiment:

    1932 Shakarpara Ration Trial - poss FFR.jpg
    PackRat, Tricky Dicky and dbf like this.
  13. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Plenty of modern 'baked shakarpara' recipes to get an idea of proportions, e.g.

    Baked Shakarpara |

    The hydrogenated oil in Keith's list may have had better keeping qualities than proper ghee, or may simply have been cheaper.

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