Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Onion Bhajias

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
Mix together the dry ingredients. Slowly add cold water, mixing as you add the water to obtain a thick dropping consistency (like a pancake mix). Don't let the mixture get too thin. You may only need a little water to get the consistency right.
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.
Eat hot!


  1. I can see why you enjoy a few bites of this wonderful appetizer from time to time. They look delicious and I like all your spices. I would like to try the chickpea flour some time, thanks for sharing!

  2. these look fantastic! thanks for sharing :D

  3. Yum. Onion bhajias are always such a moreish snack. Yours look perfect - just like the restaurant!

  4. yummm and yummmmmmm.....rubbing my tummy here =)
    those bhjias look scrumptious and your photopgraphs so beautifully captured, love love love the presentation!

  5. These sound like they would be a real hit as an appetizer. I have never looked for this type of flour, will have to see if I can get at my health food store, I would think they would have.
    Could really change up the vegetables used too, thanks for a really good idea for a new appetizer.

  6. Remember my Paris 'washing liquid in my food' story? I do, each time I read the word 'coriander! Other than that, I am sold. Not sure I can get your funny flour in Corfu though! I' ll try a bog-standard flour and keep uz posted.

  7. Excellent photos, I'd like to try your recipe soon.I saw your blog from the foodie blog roll and I like what you have here.if you won't mind I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post.Just add the foodista widget to the end of this post and it's all set, Thanks!

  8. Giorgos, it won't taste as good with ordinary flour. Try an asian grocer or health food store for the besan flour. It will make a world of difference!