Indians have never been one for custom or forming orderly queues. So you imagine the chaos that ensues when the smell of freshly cooked bhajis fills the air!
The Bhaji is a spicy Indian snack that is very similar to pakora or potato fritters. It is usually used as a topping on various Indian meals but has become popular to eat alone as a snack. I have always loved samosas (which are pretty similar to bhajis), whether I have tasted them in the Middle-East, Ethiopia, or in northern India. However, the bhaji is a treat native to the Maharashtra region, and specifically to Mumbai.
Food always seems more important to me if I can relate to a particular part of the world when I’m eating it! And of course, Mumbai is also home to such amazing snacks and street food as the vada pav, the ragda-pattice, and Bhelpuri, so it’s no surprise that people call the city the food capital of India! As well as being found for sale in street-side stalls, especially in dhabas on highways, bhajis also top the comfort food list when it comes to monsoons and rains, when the average Mumbaikar will enjoy their bhaji with a piping hot cup of chai!
The basic recipes consist of chopped onions incorporated into a dough made from similar material like rice and gram flour, spices, and sometimes herbs, then fried in oil until golden. Variations like chilli bhaji and mirchi bhaji are more popular in south-central India such as in Bangalore, and in the south east such as at Chennai. Yet it is onion bhajis that are eaten most of all as starters to main Indian cuisine courses, along with poppadums. They may be served with a side of salad and slice of lemon, or with mango chutney and are traditionally made to a mild taste. However, being served a nice onion bhaji on the streets – usually in greasy newspaper for a makeshift plate – is the best way to indulge!
Even growing up in the UK, I used to enjoy an onion bhaji from time to time, which just goes to show how the Indian cuisine has infiltrated the country – not that that’s a bad thing! However, the bhajis I tasted in India were simply amazing, and it always pays to have authentically-sourced food if you want to taste the real thing! A while back, I rated the onion bhaji as the 5th tastiest street food in Asia, alongside other world favourites as pisang goreng and kimbap!
Further on in my travels around India, I would say the bhaji (and onion bhaji in particular) is my second favourite snack from this part of the world, behind the vada pav. Now I will try to find myself another Indian street food to discover – any ideas?