It is raining in Chennai as there is a depression in the Bay of Bengal.
On this rainy day, I was just thinking how nice it would be if we ate some bajji/pakodi (Indian tempura). This is a typical reaction to cold and rainy weather…the deep fried food acts as a fillip to dull moods.
My mother was a great hand at making this (as she was in so many other dishes) and when I was young, Mumbai Monsoon gave us many days of bajji bingeing. She was innovative and used different kinds of veggies to make the fritters. Once she even used the gooey okra/ladiesfinger in a rural household. There was a young lad in that family who was so enamoured by the dish that he would set up a chant for it in Tamil, “Vendakkai bajji”!
The big chilli bajji was a great favourite which is associated with our days as kids in Hyderabad. The Mirchi (Chilli) Bajji is world famous and we would eat it in roadside stalls. The green chilli was deseeded and stuffed with a tamarind and onion paste, dipped in green gram flour and fried to perfection. Strangely enough, when I went to that city a few years ago and had it, it was so spicy and pungent and tasted totally different—maybe the cooking medium/oil had changed or my tongue and stomach could not take that heat.
When we went to Mauritius, my kids, who would stick up their nose at spinach, fell in love with the spinach bajji and would demand some of it. Making bajji was a regular date in our weekly calendar. My mother and mother-in-law were with us and they would chop up raw banana, cauliflower florets, sliced brinjal (eggplant), onions and potatoes. We experimented with cayote squash too and it was a big hit.
In Mylapore—an old part of Chennai, my city—there is a lady who sits on the road in front of a huge wok near the famous Kapaleswarar Temple. She is placed near the wooden chariot used to take the deities around the four streets surrounding the temple on festive days. She is famous all over the city for her hot bajjis. I see her, but I have never had the guts to taste her products as she sits in the open.
It is many months, even years, since I made bajji…for fear of indigestion in aged bodies. But I will give you the recipe that takes me back to when I was a child……………..
Slices Potatoes, raw banana, cauliflower florets, sliced brinjal (eggplant), onions (all or just one or two veggies)
1 cup Besan /Bengal gram flour/ kadalai mavu
¼ teaspoon Chilli and turmeric powder (add more chilli/paprika if you like it spicy)
A pinch Asafoetida
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Hot Oil
1 cup Oil (sunflower, peanut, sesame, corn) for deep frying
1. Wash the vegetables, slice them like wafers or into long and thin pieces. Place them in cold water to prevent discolouration.
2. In a bowl, mix together the yellow gram flour/besan, chilli powder, salt, asafoetida and the 1 tablespoon of hot oil.
3. Add ½ cup water and beat the batter with a fork or whisk till it is like custard. Taste for salt and spice and add if necessary.
4. Heat oil in a wok. To check if the oil is hot, drop a globule of the batter into the heated oil. If it rises to the surface immediately, then the oil is hot enough to fry the bajjis.
5. Reduce the flame to medium, dip a potato slice into the batter to coat it completely and drop it gently into the oil. You can fry 3-4 bajjis at a time depending on the quantity of oil in the wok.
6. Cook both sides of the fritter until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain off the excess oil in a colander and then on a paper towel.
7. Gradually fry all the veggies in this manner.
The fun of eating bajji is when it is served piping hot with green or coconut chutney or ketchup.
Welcome to the Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where Anu, Ashok, Conrad, Delirious, Gaelikaa, Grannymar, Magpie11, Paul, Maria the Silver Fox, Rummuser , Will Knott, Shackman and I write on the same topic. Please do visit the linked blogs to get different flavours of the same topic.