I am glad to be back from the unplanned hiatus from this blog. I would think of this blog every day, but just did not have the time or mojo to pen down the thoughts and words that were swirling in my head. I am definitely happy that I got my mojo back with—Masala Aloo Bajjis, one of my favorite and reliable quick-fixes for snack emergencies. Aloo (potato) Bajjis can be described as deep fried potato dumplings where potatoes are sliced into thick rounds and then simply dipped in batter made out of chickpea flour (besan) with a pinch of this and that and deep fried to pillowy perfection. You can leave it like that, as humble comfort food or jazz it up per your mood, time, or whim. Once you try this, don’t blame me for any ideas that may pop up in your head to do this with anything in sight-sliced sweet potatoes or egg plants or onion or anything that can hold a round shape. Consider yourself warned!! Now that I am done with disclaimers, I will tell you my favorite way to jazz them up.
I have vivid childhood memories of eating copious amounts of ‘Masala’ Aloo Bajjis whenever we visited my grandmother’s house for summer vacations. Those vacations were so much fun. Free from school, pampered by grandparents, spending the day with no rush and no agenda. As sweltering heat would start to cool off, kids, sweaty from mid-day power outages and incessant play and fights would be shoved into evening baths. While we tidied up, my grandmother would buy fresh jasmine flowers from street hawkers and string them into long garlands. Then the girls and moms and aunts decked those insanely fragrant garlands in their braided hair. We would fight for how long a garland we need, not mindful if the braid or pigtails can hold all that weight. As this was going on, one of the maids would make a run to the street corner, for the Bajjis cart at the temple entrance. The Bajji vendor be making fresh Bajjis on order at lightning speed. There would be Aloo Bajjis, Onion Bajjis, Raw-banana Bajjis and Beetle leaf Bajjis. I suspect if he was not stationed close to the temple, he would have even sold egg Bajjis (any eggs or meats near a temple are usually a no-no). My vote was always for Masala Aloo Bajji, where the Bajjis are slit open to stuff the masala. He had this magic stuffing mix-which looked and tasted fiery and fresh and unstoppable at one or four. It had onions, fried peanuts, cilantro, green chilies all tossed in a bit of lemon juice and some type of red sauce. It was just divine. So nostalgic, that I always remember those moments when I mix mine up. I cheat with Maggi tomato ketchup, and get that taste, nearly.
What do you need (makes 10-12 depending on the potato):
1 large potato, peeled and sliced into rounds as if you are making potato gratin
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder (optional)
1/4 tsp coriander /cilantro powder (optional)
Oil for deep frying
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 green chili, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
¼ tsp Chaat Masala (found in Indian grocery stores). If not available, use Garam Masala
2 tbsp Maggi ketchup (Hot & Sweet type you get in Asian stores) OR add 1 tsp hot sauce like Sriracha to 2 tbsp of regular tomato ketchup. Play with the taste to see what works best for you.
1/4 cup fried peanuts, roughly chopped
Squeeze of lemon
Few sprigs of mint
How to make it:
- Sift the flour, salt, chili powder, baking soda and cumin & cilantro powders if using and add enough water to make a pancake like batter. It should be dippable for potatoes.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying on medium high and add potato slices dipped in the batter. Fry till golden brown on both sides and drain on paper towels.
- To make the masala stuffing, mix all the listed ingredients to combine well. Once the Bajjis are done, and reasonably cool enough to handle with bare hands, take a paring knife and cut the dumpling skin to make a small pocket. You can cut across or cut the top 1/4 along the edge. Insert the knife between the potato slice and skin to create a gap to stuff some masala.
- Over stuffing is perfectly ok! It takes this snack from kid-friendly to grown up and rustic-gourmet.
- Enjoy 4 or more with hot chai or cold beer. I am speaking from personal experience!!