Friday, December 23, 2005


This article is part of a special series called "The A-Z of Marathi food". India is the land of diversity. Each of the 28 states in India has a unique cuisine but the Indian food served in restaurants represents only a tiny fraction of our culinary heritage. I come from the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Capital: Bombay (Mumbai). Population: 96 million (only 11 countries in the world have a population higher than Maharashtra). Language: Marathi. Traditional Marathi food is earthy and humble, diverse and very tasty. It also remains relatively unknown to non-marathis. Its time to change that. I invite you to join me on an alphabetical culinary tour of my state. We will go through the letters A to Z and make a dish with each letter to show-case Marathi cuisine.

O is for Onion Bhajjis.

We come now to the letter 'O" and unfortunately I can't really think of too many Marathi foods here. One possibility is "Olya naralachi karanji"; sweet turnovers made with a filling of fresh coconut (the literal meaning of "olya" is "wet") but that is a pretty complicated recipe that will have to wait for another occasion. Instead, I made a dish that is a favorite of people all over India, onion fritters/pakodas, called "bhajjis" in Marathi. Here is a dish that is found on the menu of every Indian restaurant, whether North Indian or South Indian. It is found on every street corner in India, often eaten stuffed between slices of bread (a way to convert a cheap snack into a filling meal). It is a favorite of all home cooks, a way of serving up a hot tasty snack using ingredients that are found in every pantry. Chai and pakodas is a match made in culinary heaven, and the perfect snack for Indian monsoons and North American winters alike.
The recipe is a mere guideline; go easy or heavy on the spices as you like. I love that the sliced onion forms these funky-looking odd shaped pakodas when fried. This is a very easy crowd-pleasing snack for beginner cooks to make. Making smaller pakodas will ensure that the inside gets cooked well. People who do not like the sharp pungent taste of onions might find that the onions cooked as bhajjis have a pleasant sweetish taste that they enjoy. A variation on these is to add some finely sliced spinach leaves to the batter...they add a wonderful flavor.

Onion Bhajji (Pakodas)

(serves 3-4)
2 medium onions
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1/4 cup minced cilantro
3-4 minced green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
Oil for deep-frying
1. Peel the onions, halve them and slice them thinly (using a mandoline if you own one, or a sharp knife).
2. Mix salt into the onions and leave them for 10 minutes. This softens the onions and brings out their juices.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except oil) into the onions, add a little water to make a thick batter.
4. Heat the oil and add teaspoons of batter into the oil, fry till bhajjis are golden. Drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with tamarind chutney or mint chutney or even ketchup!
We'll meet again soon with "P" which is a letter with many many interesting possibilities, so stay tuned!


  1. Looks very yummy. I haven't cooked with chickpea flour yet, but I plan to try it soon.

  2. Hi Kalyn, chickpea flour is extremely versatile! I love it because it is high in protein too.

  3. Nupur -
    looks very tasty! Happy Holidays to yourself, V and the illustrious Dale!!!


  4. Yum - I recognize these, though I didn't know them by name. Another deep-fried treat for me to add to my to-try list!

  5. These look so delicious! Think I will get some chickpea flour today if I can find it. Just bought turmeric and coriander a few days ago.

  6. Hey Nupur,

    O for ONINON Bhajis!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Is this is marathi word !!!!!! where are you from!!!!!!


  7. WooHoo - coolest food blog ever!

    May this displaced Penkar request that 'T' be for Thecha, pretty please? :)

    I know what kind of food I'll be cooking over the next few days. No, scratch that though - mom's visiting (evil grin)!

    Great job! Bookmarked :)

  8. WTF is 'Penkar'? Sorry - I can no longer trust myself to spell 'Punekar'!

  9. HI nupur,

    Heard recently that you can make guiltless bhajias by adding oil to the dough and microwaving the stuff until done...havent had the chance to try it since I'm visiting let me know if you've heard of, or tried that method.

    Happy 2006!

  10. Hi AA, I did not know about this method for bhajias, but used it for making masala peanuts before and for the peanuts, it worked very well.
    My own feeling is that if frying is done at the right temperature, then the result is not very oily and very little oil gets actually absorbed. On the other hand, if you are adding oil to the dough, then you are definitely consuming all of it.
    Happy new year to you too, and hope you are enjoying your India trip!

  11. Oh! You took me to early sixties/seventies when I use to eat kanda bhajjies at Mama Kane at Dadar or Virkar Bhavan Girgaon. It used to either kandha or vangi bhajjies for breakfast along with poha .I am born and bought up in Mumbai and love Maharastrian food although a south indian by birth.
    I can even list the wonderful dishes and where available in those days like
    Kulkarni vishrantri gruh at Girgaon for vangi bajjies
    Mama kane and Kelkar for batata vada and pohe as also Ladhu Samrat at Lal Bagh where Batata vadas are are kept in
    baskets and sold in dozens
    Prakash at Dadar for misals
    Panshikar Dadar for sabudhana vada,kothmir vada etc
    There are several dishes in Maharastra like Tali pith, karvas etc and the list is endless. Ofcourse you have listed most of them in A-Z dishes
    Incidently in south we have 3 groups of fried items called as
    1)Bhajji where the dough is watery and result is rich in oil and sticky but very tastey - For example Kerala kela bajji
    2)Pakoda where the dough is totally dry and absorbs minimum oil but result is dry and crispy-For example Madras Pakoda
    3)Bonda where the dough is in between-For example Mysore Bonda.
    You can add a vegetable like Simla mirchi/Potato/vanghi/onions etc along with the dough
    We make the above items in the afternoon as light tiffins even today .
    For those who want to taste it, please try at Hotel Vishranti Bhavan opp kabutar khana, Matunga Station(East) .Every day between 4.00 to 6.00 pm every day except monday it is available even today and rate is very cheap Rs.12 per plate

  12. i made kanda bhaji last week. to be honest i am not a good cook but i am a complete foodie. it was raining heavily last week in chicago. that reminded me of my old days in Pune, biking - sinhagad- mulashi. so at 11:30 pm i called up my mom in Pune and asked the recipe. i was really nervous while making it. but it turned out to be awesome. it was such a great pleasure.

    i plan to make thalipiths now. wish me luck :DD

    keep up writing nupur.
    good luck.

    sandeep pawar4

  13. Hi Nupur:
    I love your blog and just wanted to let you know that as education director of Dining for Women, I'm recommending this recipe to our members this month. We have chapters across the country that raise money for women's empowerment across the developing world. We also eat the foods of the countries in honor of the women we're learning about and supporting. This month, we're supporting a wonderful organization based in Jharkhand called Matrichaya. It's difficult to find recipes for foods from there-- any ideas? I hope these will be a good representative of the kinds of street foods that some of the women Matrichaya supports sell. And I know they will be tasty because I make them often for parties and serve them with tomato and cilantro chutneys. Anyway, thanks. I just wanted you to know this recipe is helping women India in some way and exposing a lot of women here to good Indian food. Best, Corrie Norman

  14. bumped into your blog over google, one the coolest and home-like easy and excellent tasting reciepes !!! please keep them coming. thanks a ton for Sharing - Vijai

  15. Wow.. Onion Bhajji my favorite. This is my daily evening tiffin.

  16. Just love your recipes- so easy. I finally made some good crispy onion pakoras.

  17. We had onion bhajji for the first time this weekend. They remind me of southern hushpuppies. Yum!

  18. Nupur, I have been a fan for years. I wanted to make your fabulous onion bhajjis next week for Diwali (yours are the best - so much better than one of the best Indian restaurants in Houston) and I started to panic when I couldn't find it listed in your recipes. But I'm not totally stupid, so the word pakoda rang a bell. I just want to express my thanks for your wonderful collection here. I have never made anything of yours that isn't really really good,and I am so happy you are still around and adding more.

    1. Thanks for the really really sweet note, Melissa :) You are so kind! I'm glad you found this recipe from like 16 years ago!!

      May I suggest that cabbage bhajjis/pakodas are fabulous too, if you're looking for a variation. I don't deep fry very much so I haven't made these in ages. Happy Diwali!!


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