This Tasty Indian Food is Enjoyed Around the World in Every Way Imaginable
If there is anything more rich and varied than the culture of India—a country home to over a billion people of different religions, speaking different languages, and following different traditions—it’s the food. Indian food has given us everything from the ubiquitous butter chicken (found everywhere from British pubs to street vendors in New Delhi) and other curries, to chicken tikka, naan bread, and more. One popular treat originating from India is the onion bhaji. A type of pakora, or fritter, it’s a snack made by rolling an onion in gram flour and deep frying it.
A pakora—one of many different spellings, as transliteration of Sanskrit is not a simple process—is any battered, deep-fried snack originating from India, and now popular across the whole of South Asia and beyond. Different styles are made by rolling fruits, vegetables, or even meats and cheeses. Potatoes, spinach, paneer cheese, chicken, eggplant, plantain, cauliflower, and more are all popular ingredients in pakora. It can be commonly found as far and wide as Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
From region to region, the names may change somewhat—as do how it’s served—but the main principle remains the same: using a batter made of gram flour (chickpea flour) and then deep-frying. When done with onion alone, you get onion bhaji.
Snack, Side Dish, or Entrée?
The truth about bhajis and pakoras is that there is no one right way to eat them. In many places, they are served as an appetizer or snack, like an Indian food equivalent to onion rings or an onion blossom. To the Cape Malays, a Muslim community in South Africa, they are called dhaltjies, and are commonly eaten during iftar, the evening meal that follows a day of fasting during Ramadan. Dhaltjies are also common Cape Malay appetizers at weddings and other special occasions. In Great Britain, pakora is a popular fast food snack. There, they are common at Indian-style weddings, and are often served with brown sauce, ketchup, or a variety of chutneys, such as mango chutney or tamarind chutney. From Indian cinema to the ByWard Market in Ottawa, different varieties are abundant around the globe.
The moral of the story is this: there’s no right way, right time, or right place to enjoy a delicious onion bhaji. All you need to bring to the table is your appetite and a desire to try new things and explore new flavours. Whether you dip your bhaji in ketchup like the British or eat one after the day’s fast during Ramadan like they do in South Africa, you can enjoy one any time at your favourite place to enjoy Indian Food in Ottawa.