Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bajjis (Vegan Vegetable Fritters)

Bajjis are delectable little morsels of vegetable fritters (similar to Japanese tempura) just perfect to offer with afternoon tea or as appetizers. The secret to the bajjis is the special batter - the batter is made with besan (Hindi) or chick pea/garbanzo flour. The simple batter transforms the most ordinary of the veggies into amazingly tasty snacks. Pair the bajjis with a chutney or two of your choice - basic green, sweet and sour date-tamarind, fresh coconut, or green chili.

Clockwise from the top: Green chili, Eggplant,
Green Banana and Onion Rings
An explanation for the uninitiated: bajjis are slices or nuggets of veggies dipped in batter and deep fried; pakodas are chopped veggies mixed in a thick batter and fried. Although I do not make these very often since they are deep fried, they are a delicious addition to the menu occasionally. Both bajjis and pakodas are vegan and gluten-free.

Almost any vegetable can be made into a bajji; vegetables with a high moisture content such as tomatoes are not suitable though. Summer squashes like zucchini, yellow squash; regular or sweet potatoes, eggplant, green and ripe bananas or plantains, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, hot and mild peppers, etc make wonderful bajjis.

I like to offer various shapes, sizes, textures and flavors to delight and surprise the guests; some of my favorite combinations are:

1. round - cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, unripe and ripe banana slices;
2. square, rectangle, or triangles - of green banana, eggplant, and paneer cheese slices;
3. slivers of onions or bell peppers;
4. semicircles of onions, eggplant and potato;
5. nuggets of cauliflower, broccoli,
6. thin wedges of apple.
7. small whole peppers (slit and seeds removed) like Jalapeno or other mild chilies, etc.

When there are an assortment of shapes and sizes, the fun of guessing what you are going to sink your teeth into adds to the delight of eating them.

To serve 4 people generously, I use one each of: a small Japanese type eggplant, a small green banana or a potato, a small onion, and a small zucchini and 1/3 of a block of paneer cheese.


Assorted vegetables
Slices of Paneer cheese (Optional)
Oil for deep frying


2 cups Besan (Garbanzo/gram flour)
1/2 cup Rice Flour
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Red chili powder (Ground Cayenne) or more to taste
1 or 2 pinches Asafetida


Mix the besan, rice flour, salt, chili powder, and just enough water to make a fairly thick batter. The batter should coat the veggies without completely running off. Set aside until veggies are prepared.

Prepare thin slices of your choice of vegetables and arrange them on a plate. Eggplant, green banana, potato, etc will become brown if prepared too far in advance; prepare them just before using. If you use hot chilies like Jalapeno, slit/halve them and remove the seeds and core; sprinkle lightly with salt.

Heat the oil for frying in a kadai (Indian frying pan) or other suitable pan until hot; a tiny drop of batter should brown pretty quickly but not burn. CAUTION: Be careful around the hot oil; if water drops into the hot oil, it will splash out violently.

Dip veggies one slice at a time and gently slip into the hot oil being very careful not to splash the hot oil on yourself. Add as many slices as will fit without crowding the pan.

The bajjis should cook for about 2 minutes on each side; when they are golden brown, turn with a slotted spoon to cook on the other side.

Remove carefully from the oil when they are a nice deep golden brown with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels.

Continue cooking the rest of the bajjis.

Serve hot with your favorite green and/or sweet chutneys accompanied by Masala Chai or Pudina Chai.

No comments: