Friday, June 7, 2013

Potato Bhajias

                                                       




                                                           
A bhajia is a very popular East African snack that has it's origins in India. It is a kind of fritter, with several variants. In India, they are called, "bhaji". In Kenya, they are usually served with a cold refreshing drink. I would in fact dare say that an ice-cold Coca-Cola and a bhajia are a match made in flavor heaven! This recipe consists of thinly sliced potatoes incorporated into a thick batter made from rice and gram flour (chickpea flour), spices and herbs, then fried until golden. They may be served with a side of salad and slice of lemon, or with mango chutney.

In boarding school, they would be sold at the school canteen sandwiched in a soft bun. Growing up in Kenya, there was a food truck in our subdivision that sold bhajias. That was always a welcome option whenever I stayed out past either lunch or dinner time. In our house, my mother followed very literally the Swahili saying, "Asiyekuwepo, na lake halipo"(loosely translated, the individual who is not present, has no share in whatever is on offer). My Mom was very strict about making it on time for lunch or dinner. In my family, we all knew lunch was served at 12:30pm sharp, and dinner at 8:00pm sharp. So if you were not seated at the table at these times..forget about it! You might as well stop somewhere and grab yourself something quick to eat. So this bhajia food truck was on many occasions a life-saver. I know it sounds harsh, but that was my Mom's way of showing us structure and respect for time through tough love. As my father always said, punctuality is a good indication of one's character :) Anyway, here's how to make these:

EQUIPMENT:
-Sharp knife or mandolin slicer.
-Cutting board.
-Wok or deep frying pan.
-Large mixing bowl.
-Medium mixing bowl.
-Wire whisk.
-Kitchen tongs.
-Skimmer.
-Paper towels.

INGREDIENTS:
-3 cups vegetable oil for frying (I used canola oil).
-1 3/4 cup gram/besan flour (chickpea flour). You can purchase this on my online Amazon store (link in the description box of this video) or any Indian grocery store.
-2 tablespoons white rice flour .
-1/4 teaspoon orange or yellow powder food coloring (you can use turmeric powder as an option).
-1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher salt).
-1/4 teaspoon sage seeds (ajwain).
-1/2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves (methi).
-1/2 teaspoon cumin powder.
-1 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder.
-1/4 teaspoon garam masala.
-1 teaspoon coriander powder.
-1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
-1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste (1 teaspoon ginger paste+ 1 teaspoon garlic paste).
-1/2 a bunch of cilantro (coriander leaves), roughly chopped.
-3 large potatoes, thinly sliced using a sharp knife or mandolin slicer /9as shown in the video). I used russet potatoes for this recipe.
                                                       












INSTRUCTIONS:
-In your wok or deep frying pan on medium heat, heat up the cooking oil.
                                                     


-Clean your potato slices until the water runs clear (that will help get rid of some of the starch). Place them in the large bowl, immerse them in water and set aside.
-In the medium bowl, combine the rice flour, gram flour, salt, the cilantro, ginger-garlic paste and the spices. Use a whisk to combine the ingredients.
-Slowly pour in the water a little at a time. Whisk with each addition of water until the batter is thick and without any lumps. Your batter should coat the back of a spoon when dipped in. It should have the consistency of buttermilk pancake batter.                                                       


*** test your oil to see if its ready to fry by inserting the handle of a wooden cooking spoon into the hot oil. If bubbles form around the handle, then your oil is ready. Another way to test it to drop a small piece of potato into the hot oil. The potato should sit at the bottom of the pan for an 8-10 second count, then come up. If it stays down longer than 10 seconds, the oil is not hot enough. In which casem your bhajias will soak up that oil and will be raw inside. If it comes up before an 8 second count, the oil is too hot and the outside of your bhajia will be cooked, but the potato will be raw...eew!***

-Once your oil is ready,drain the potatoes and place them between two clean kitchen cloths. Gently pat them dry to remove any water. You want the potato slices dry or any excess water will water down your batter.                                                          


-Dip a handful of the potato slices into the batter. Make sure that both sides are well coated with the batter.                                                      


-Hold each slice up before you drop it into the hot oil, to remove any excess batter.
-Use your skimmer to move the bhajia around in the hot oil so that both sides are cooked (the skimmer is shown below).
                                                        



-Once cooked, remove the bhajia out of the hot oil, let any excess oil drip back into the frying pan, and then transfer the bhajia to a container lined with paper towel to drain off more oil (if there's any exess ).   
-Before you add another batch of coated, uncooked bhajia into the oil, allow the oil 2-3 minutes to come back to high temperature.            
                                      



TIP: As you continue cooking, set your oven to warm and place the cooked bhajias in the oven to keep them warm until you have completed frying the whole batch.

Bhajias are best served warm with a cold drink. Coca Cola or Mango Nectar were made for this dish. I made a honey-tamarind sauce to dip them in. Soooo good!! Enjoy!