Bhajias are a staple at any Indian tea party in South Africa. These light and fluffy savoury bites are also known as pakoras, bhajis or "chilli bites". Now although I try to eat healthily and avoid deep fried foods, an occasional bhajia cannot be resisted!
There are various ready-made bhajia mixes available in boxes in supermarkets but it is simple to make your own mix with fresh spices. When I was growing up in Durban, every Indian household had a copy of "Indian Delights", an essential book with all recipes for basic Indian meals and festive foods. I still consult my copy regularly and gain inspiration from the recipes in it. This recipe comes from this iconic South African recipe book.
Once you've made the basic batter it's really up to you what vegetables and herbs you choose to make the bhajias with. Here I've made onion bhajias with white onions, spring onions and coriander. You could also use spinach, eggplant slices, mushrooms, cauliflower, etc.
The most essential ingredient is besan flour, also known as chana, gram or chickpea flour. It can be found in Indian grocery stores and I even found it in my local, inner Sydney Coles supermarket in the gluten-free section.
They are usually served as part of an Indian high tea or as a starter before a main course. Chilli sauce or cucumber and mint raita (a yoghurt-based sauce) are good dips to accompany these light and tasty fritters. Be warned... they're very moreish!
You will need:
- 1 cup besan flour
- 1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 large white onion
- spring onions
- coriander leaves
Then add 1 chopped white onion, some chopped spring onions and coriander leaves to the batter. Mix thoroughly into the mixture. You can add other vegetables as suggested as well at this stage.
Deep fry in batches in hot oil, dropping small handfuls of the mixture into hot oil, turning once, till golden brown.
Drain on kitchen paper.