223. Maru bhajia
down memory lane
When my siblings and I were young, our parents would usually take us to the City Park in the afternoon, followed by a walk round Kimathi Street and then the best part of the evening…. a plateful of maru bhajias or a whole bag of hot hot chips. We usually preferred the bhajias. There were 2 places we would go to, Maru Cafe or a small cafe opposite the Khoja Mosque
(unfortunately cannot remember the name). The hot bhajias were absolutely yummy and along with the really spicy chutney we would get a whole bottle ( tree top bottle re used) of tamarind chutney. We usually returned an empty bottle to the waiter. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant at all, we would sit in the car and have the bhajias. Imagine car service! We still have the van but the place no longer exists. I think the owner moved to UK and now there is a famous Maru Bhajia House in Wembley. In the meantime, newer places opened up offering Maru bhajia as they are called in Kenya but none actually match the original cafe. However, I must mention that the bhajias sold at Slush in Nairobi come pretty close and now the younger generation know them as Slush bhajias and not maru bhajia. You must be wondering what is all this noise about maru bhajias. Well for all those who have never heard or tried them, they are basically potato fritters coated with chickpea flour. It’s very much sort of an eating culture among the Asian community in Kenya. I still go to Slush to have bhajias whenever we go to Nairobi just as we always go to the Maru Bhajia House in Wembley when I visit London. I tried to find out the history of maru bhajia, but couldn’t find any. I got a request from a follower of my blog for the recipe and out came my old recipe book and I made them for my daughter and husband. When my kids were younger it featured as dinner quite often. For my husband, I had to make them with green gram (yellow moong) flour as he is allergic to chickpeas. You really cannot make out the difference. It was an excellent substitute and I had a very happy hubby as its one of his favourite dishes.
For this recipe, use potatoes that don’t brown easily on frying. I used meru potatoes in Kenya. You probably want to use potatoes that are meant for chips (french fries). Unfortunately, the potatoes are not that good in India. Perhaps you could soak them for a while before using them.
6 to 8 servings
1 kg potatoes (about 5 to 6 big potatoes)
1½ cups chickpea flour (chana flour, besan flour)
¼ cup rice flour
1 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1to 2 tsp green chilli paste
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp sugar
½ cup chopped fresh coriander
For the chutney :
1 cup lightly packed peeled and grated carrot
1 cup lightly packed peeled and grated cucumber
3 medium tomatoes
½ cup fresh chopped coriander
1 tsp ginger paste
2 to 3 tsp green chilli paste
½ tsp garlic paste
¾ to 1 tsp salt
3 tbsp tamarind paste
oil for deep frying
water in a bowl for mixing
Preparation of the chutney :
- Cut the tomatoes into half. Using a grater, grate the tomatoes to get a coarse paste. Do not grate the skin. Throw away the skin or eat up for roughage.
- Place the tomato paste,chopped coriander, peeled carrots and cucumber into a blender. Process it for a few seconds. You want a coarse paste. Add a little water if required.
- Remove the coarse paste into a bowl.
- Mix in the remaining ingredients for the chutney and keep it aside till required. Adjust the taste according to your preference.
- Prepare the coating first. Sift flours, salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder together.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Add the juice of 2 lemons and miss well.
- Peel the potatoes and slice them into roundels using a mandolin. The thickness will depend on your preference. My family likes them pretty thin.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok over medium heat.It is ready when you drop a small piece of potato and it rises to the top.
- Take a handful of the sliced potatoes and place it on a wide plate or tray.Spread them out.
- Sprinkle about 3 to 4 heaped tablespoons of the flour mixture. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water and mix everything gently using your palm.
- Drop the coated slices in the hot oil and fry till they become crispy and lightly golden brown. Do not overload the frying pan.
- Keep turning the bhajias gently with a slotted spoon while frying. Once done, remove them with the slotted spoon and serve with chutney.
- Do not let the potatoes soak in water for too long as it will take longer to fry them.
- If you do not have a mandolin, slice them using a knife.
- I have added the tamarind to the chutney but if you prefer you can make extra tamarind chutney on the side. Take about 3 to 4 tablespoons of tamarind paste and add about 1 to2 cups of water. Add salt and red chilli powder according to your taste.
- Do not add too much water to the flour as you want the flour mixture to stick to the potato slices.
- To prepare tamarind paste, place the tamarind in a pan. Cover it with water. Bring it to a boil. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Let the mixture cool. Remove the stalk and seeds. You will be left with a pulpy mixture. Process the pulpy mixture in a blender. Pass it through a sieve. Tamarind paste or pulp is ready. Store the extra amount in the freezer.