Am on a Hyderabai khana trip just now – nostalgia for childhood and the wide open maidans of my growing up year, the smell of the first rains of the monsoon which for some reason promptly induce a longing for mirchi bajji! Also the irresistable urge to buy the pale green, large chilies which are used for making this specialty every time i see them in the market!
While Kalidasa’s cloud messenger Meghadootam) carried the message of the lovesick Yaksha to his lost love, to most Hyderabadis, the Dhoot (messenger) carries the smells of the mirchi bajji vendor at the street corner even more irresistably than Kalidasa’s cloud!
Evenings were normally meant for dropping in to people’s houses or receiving visitors – what a civilised practice! – and with the famed Hyderabadi hospitality, it was a rare visitor who left without having dinner. But before dinner came the more important stuff – mirchi bajjis! I had a cousin who used to visit us almost every day with his wife. They used to walk about half a kilometer to our place, ask if people wanted mirchi bajjis (when did we not???!) and then all of us used to troop off to the bajjiwala next to his house. Then back home we traipsed – to consume the bajjis at home over much chit chat and bonhomie before dinner was served! Repeat five days a week for over a year!
I was one of those “phuskies” (gutless characters) who could NOT eat the chili part so i ate only the ‘bajji’ part and a dear uncle (Atchu maama) used to patiently eat the mirchis from all the 40-odd bajjis that we kids were eating! No smoke ever came out of his ears either – i watched – promise! In later years, maybe as a result of all those mirchis, some hair did grow out of his ears!
I have eaten mirchi bajjis in many parts of India but they are just not the same as in Hyderabad – to begin with, there is no stuffing 🙁 . Secondly, there are no rain clouds 🙁
Fat, pale green bajjiwale mirchis – 10-12 – slit, keeping stalks intact
Senaga pindi (besan/ gram flour) – 1.5 cups
Tamarind – gooseberry sized lump soaked in 1 tbsp hot water for ten minutes
Jaggery – 1 tbsp – grated
Ajwain (carom seeds) – 1/2 tsp
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1/2 tsp
Oil to deep fry
Pound the jeera slightly and then grind it in a mixer with the tamarind and jaggery and salt. Stuff the mirchis with this and set aside for about half an hour. Make a thick, dipping batter with the besan, ajwain and salt. Dip the stuffed mirchis in this batter and fry in medium hot oil (this is important – do not fry in very hot oil) till golden brown. Serve hot and watch the cloud messenger salivate!
Now if you want to make this exotic self-saucing dish even more exotic, cut each bajji into 1 cm thick slices and sprinkle chat masala and chopped onions on top and serve.