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Mucho Gusto

Prashanti’s Chili Bajjis

This is the forty-fifth installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

SIZZLE! SIZZLE! SIZZLE! When I was young, I often came home from school to this sound. I’d immediately run to the kitchen to see what my mom or dad was making. Most days, someone was preparing a curry; the sizzle I’d hear was the onions browning in the pan. As a child—and still today—I loved curry. However, because I ate curries practically every day, the excitement I felt wore off after a while. Every so often, I would hear something else: the sizzle of green chillies being deep fried. On those days, my dad would be making one of my favorite snacks, chilli bajjis. 

Chilli bajjis are incredibly spicy but delicious deep fried green chillies—an Indian fritter of sorts. Eaten as a tea time snack or sold by street vendors in India, chilli bajjis are a staple of South Indian cuisine. While the first bite of the chilli bajji is extremely crunchy, the second bite is when the spice really kicks in. It feels like your mouth is on fire. Your eyes may even begin to water. You continue eating the bajiis anyways; it’s that delicious. The next bite is surprisingly refreshing. That’s when you finally taste the onion filling and its hint of red chilli powder and lemon juice. 

Choosing the correct chilli for this snack is very important. In India, people tend to use the spiciest chilli they can get their hands on. Unfortunately, these chillies are not sold in regular American grocery stores. Instead, people usually buy them from specialized Indian supermarkets. When I had a chilli bajji in India for the first time, I was shocked by the sheer amount of spice. My eyes watered as I ate, but it was so delicious that I had to finish it all. As I’ve gotten older, I have become more accustomed to the spiciness of these chillies and react more quietly to it. For those with a lower spice tolerance, eating the chilli bajjis with some sort of tamarind sauce or chutney reduces some of the spiciness of the snack. Some people go so far as to use normal chillies that can be found in any American grocery store. 

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 medium sized green chillies  
  • 4-6 cups vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 2 cup besan flour 
  • ⅔  cup water 
  • 2 tsp. baking powder or baking soda 
  • 2 tsp. salt 
  • 4 tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 medium yellow onion 
  • ½ lemon

Instructions:

First, clean the chillies by running them under warm water. Use a paper towel to pat them down, making sure that they are completely dry. With a sharp knife, make one long slit down the length of the chilli. When doing this, make sure that you do not accidentally cut the chilli in half. This step is important, because it will allow you to add a filling into the chillies after they are fried. 

Chillies with a slit

Next, make the batter that you will dip the chillies in before frying them. To do this, mix the besan flour, baking powder or baking soda, salt, 3 teaspoons of red chilli powder, and water together until all the ingredients are well combined. This should form a batter that is similar in consistency to pancake batter. If the batter is too thin, add some more besan flour; if it is too thick, add a little bit of water. 

Prepare to deep fry the chillies. Add the vegetable oil to a large pot and heat it on medium flame. To test the temperature of the oil, place a drop of the batter in the oil. You will know that the oil is hot enough to use when the batter rises to the top and begins to sizzle. Dip a chilli in the batter, make suring that it is evenly coated. Gently place the chilli in the pot of hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes or until it has a nice golden-brown color. Repeat this process for the rest of the chillies. Set the deep fried chillies aside so that they can cool as you proceed to the next step. You can either dispose of the oil or save it for your next deep-fried dish!

Chop the yellow onion into small pieces. In a small mixing bowl, combine the onions with the remaining teaspoon of red chilli powder. Squeeze half of a lemon into the onion mixture and combine well. 

Finally, add 1-2 spoonfuls of the onion mixture into the slit of the fried chillies; make sure that the onion mixture is spread evenly throughout the slit of the chilli. This recipe should be served right away, and it tastes even better when eaten with tamarind sauce or chutney. Enjoy!

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