It's a welcome snack, especially on a rainy day
To two cups of besan (kadalai maavu) add two tablespoons of rice flour, some chilli powder/salt and pinches of crushed ajwain (omam), hing powder and baking/cooking soda. Add water, beat it into a smooth batter of dosa consistency. Dip slices of banana, brinjal, potato and onion in the batter till they are coated well. Deep fry in sufficient oil, remove when golden brown, drain.
Who wants to spend time serving this splendid snack, ‘bajji'? Just eat it.
Bajji is a prime teatime favourite in Tamil Nadu. It's made across the state — from the workers' shacks in remote tea estates to busy city hotels.
It has no relation to pao bhaaji or to the vegetable bhajis (side-dish) for which there are recipes in cookbooks and websites. Don't be misguided and call these dipped-and-fried medallions bhajias, vadas or fritters.
Look at bajji's highpoints — its appetising armour of golden brown is meant to shine in the bright green of a banana leaf.
Its gentle crispness makes it easy to chew. Its soft veggie interior gives it a wholesome taste.
The sizes and shapes it can be made in, and the chutneys it can be dipped into. Savoury heaven!
In Tamil Nadu, bajjis are served piping hot with suji halwa (kesari) when the groom's party troops into a prospective bride's home. But when the perfect rounds, ovals and squares with their veggie secrets beckon him, what option does the guy have? A bajji-filled life, ever after.
The city, by now, isa food court of global cuisines — Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Thai, Korean, Japanese, Lebanese, Mediterranean…. How would you rate a light snack from any of them against a plate of bajjis proudly sitting in pools of chutneys — coriander, mint, coconut, tomato?
Travel to Kuttralam for karpooravalli bajji that's good for a cold/cough after a drench in the waterfalls, to Tiruchi for onion rings, Madurai for the betel-leaf speciality, down to Kanyakumari for bread/fish/egg-filled ones and up the hilly west for those with cauliflower and palak fillings.
Gorge on brinjal, potato and plantain bajjis on the way. Back in Chennai, head to the beaches, wade in the seawater, emerge to eat milagai bajjis.
The veg twist
“If you have no cholesterol issues, and if the bajji is made in fresh oil with minimum water in the batter, it is an enhancer to eat vegetables,” says Dharini Krishnan, nutritionist.
“Whether below eight or over 80, you'll benefit from the carrot, capsicum, cauliflower inside and the protein skin outside.”
The bajji-sellers on the Marina and Besant Nagar beaches say their customers include a lot of foreigners. “They come asking about the green chilli garlands around the kiosk,” says Kamali, dipping a longish one in the batter.
“They find it spicy, so we stock water sachets as well.” Will Symmo love this snack? We don't know. But you can be certain there is no doosra for this bajji.