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These moreish fritters are commonly called “bhaji” outside of India, but in their native country a bhaji is a stir-fry of vegetables and not a fritter at all. Some Western chefs add egg to the batter—this is not necessary as the gram flour itself is sticky enough to be a binding agent. These gluten-free fritters are made from a particular variety of pulse called Bengal gram. Gram flour becomes crisp when fried and is therefore used in many Indian snacks including Bombay mix. Ajowan or ajowan seeds—also called carom seeds—are added to fritters, such as bhajia and pakoras, as such dishes, along with gram flour, can be heavy to digest, and ajwain seeds are known to be a digestive.
See also Q+A: How Can Turmeric Help Me Heal?
Excerpted from Indian in 7: Delicious Indian Recipes in 7 Ingredients or Fewer by Monisha Bharadwaj, Kyle Books 2019. Reprinted with permission.
Combine the chili powder, turmeric, ajowan or cumin seeds, and gram flour in a mixing bowl. Pour in a little cold water at a time and mix to make a thick, custard-like batter. Season with salt, bearing in mind that you will need a little more than you think, as it will be seasoning the onions that go into the batter as well.
Heat enough sunflower oil (about ½ inch deep) in a large, deep frying pan on high heat until hot.
Fold the sliced onions, in batches, into the batter, evenly coating them with the batter. If you put all the onions into the batter at once, the salt in the batter will draw out the juice from the onions and make the batter loose. The batter should just coat the sliced onions.
Test the temperature of the oil by carefully dipping a slice of raw onion into it. The onion should immediately sizzle if the oil is hot enough.
Scoop up a tablespoon of the battered onions, drain off the excess batter on the side of the bowl and then drop the onions gently into the hot oil. Deep-fry in batches for around 2–3 minutes on each side, turning once, until golden and crispy. Remove using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Wrap the fritters in foil to keep warm while you cook the remaining batter.
Deep-fry the remaining onions in the same way, bringing the oil back up to temperature before adding each batch. Serve hot.