Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tea Time With Aubergine Fritters (Beguni)

Growing up in Kolkata telebhaja (literally means fried in oil, signifies fritters) was part of regular life. There were/are little shops all over the city selling fritters of various shapes, sizes and of course varieties-potato, onion, aubergine, beetroot, cauliflower, mixed veggies (depending on the season), lentils, shrimp, fish, mutton, egg.... the list goes on. 
These shops are usually run by at least two people, one who does the all important job of frying the fritters and the other who serves the customers. Come early evening these shops would open with their pump stoves or coal ones (unoon) on, vegetables all chopped and arranged neatly, big vats of smoking hot oil and ready to dip batter. They would dip whichever variety you want and fry them fresh in front of you. In each batch they would fry 20 to 30 fritters and alternate between the varieties. Like after frying aubergine fritters they would next fry potato ones, so on and so forth. 
All this fresh frying is time consuming, so there are often long queues of hungry people and a little jostling and arguments about who arrived first goes on in the side line. But only till the fritters are ready, once the fritters are out of the frying pan, people keep shouting their orders to the server. Usual conversation snippets floating around would be 'ayi amar char te beguni', (hey I want 4 aubergine fritters) 'ar amar 2 aloo or chop, 2 dal bora ar 4 te beguni, ami kintu anek khon dariye achi' (I need 2 potato fritters, 2 lentil ones and 4 aubergine ones and let me remind you I have been waiting for sometime). 
These fritters are usually eaten with puffed rice (muri). They are served in little newspaper bags which often soak up the extra oil. The best bit of the fritters for me as a child was the sprinkling of rock salt (bit noon) on top. The salt added an extra dimension to the fritters and somehow made them more exciting to the kid-y me.
Apart from the common man/woman, famous Bengalis over the ages have been known to enjoy fritters with their evening tea. A few names from the top of my head--Ram Krishna Paramahansha and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. The shops from where they used to eat, still exist and are fully functional.
Fritters are made at home as well, either served as snack or as the first course of a meal. They are a regular feature with our khichuri (rice and lentil mishmash, recipe and other details here). 
Though these are regular evening snacks, on some days these fritters taste extra nice. For most Bengalis rainy evenings trigger an urge for gorom cha ar muri telebhaja (hot tea and puffed rice with fritters). Monsoons and fritters along with hot tea and puffed rice have a deep connection...and every Bong feels it (it is a bit like the call of the wild, though nothing as adventurous, though no less exciting!).

I had such an urge recently during a snowy evening. Sadly for me there was no shop in my neighbourhood where I could pop in to get my fill of fritters. I had to make them at home, was not much of a hassle, because they are fairly easy to make. Presenting you my mother's recipe for aubergine fritters.
Slicing up the aubergine!
Ingredient for Aubergine Fritters:
One aubergine, cut into half and then thinly sliced
One cup of gram flour/besan
1 tea spoon of onion seeds/kalo jeere
1/2 tea spoon of red chilly powder (can increase or decrease the amount according to heat tolerance)
1/4th tea spoon of Bicarbonate of Soda/cooking soda (this is my mother's special touch, she says cooking soda makes the fritters really crunchy and also stops after eating indigestion and acidity)
Salt to taste (please add a little less than your usual quantity because the rock salt will also add a salty flavour)
Oil to deep fry the fritters
Rock salt to sprinkle on top

How To Make the Fritters: Mix the gram flour, onion seeds, red chilly powder, cooking soda and salt with about half a cup of water. You may need to add more water if the batter is too thick.
The making of the batter!
In a pan heat the oil till it is smoking hot, dip the aubergines into the batter, coat them nicely with the batter and deep fry till darkish golden brown. Keep your ventilators open, if you do not want the smoke alarm to get activated. Trying to shhhh the alarm while keeping the fritters from over frying is a tough act, ask me!
The whole exercise takes 15 to 20 minutes.
Sprinkle some rock salt on the fritters and they are ready to eat. Served with puffed rice and tea makes an awesome snack, guaranteed to earn you brownie points. And the puffed rice makes it not all unhealthy.
Served in a rudimentary home-made newspaper cone (thonga)!
Take a bite of the fritter, the coating should be crisp and crunchy
while the aubergine inside should be soft and fleshy...
Check out these cute little wooden clips that I used to make the newspaper cone.
 I picked these up in a craft store!

37 comments:

  1. These look delicious. But aubergines are not in my shopping list ( allergy - I think it is an excuse though). I make this with raw banana - slit lengthwise.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The beguni looks so tempting. Loved your thonga.....reminds me of streetside jhalmuri.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it, and sure would enjoy eating it- aubergines are my favorites! I am your new follower too!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I could imagine the small shops selling these fritters while reading... I've had fritters of many vegetables but aubergines never. I love this vegetable so I will have to try this soon. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I 've lived in bengal for 4 years and its great to brush up on my bengali through your blog :)
    Following you so i can come back often.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Suchi,
    Count me in and add me to your list of (gluttonous) telebhaja lovers!I don't remember if I've mentioned this, but I too am a 'Bangali' from Kolkata!So you can well imagine my elation at the sight of your drool worthy 'begunis'!What a post you have here - and the mention of 'muri & telebhaja' on a rainy day left me absolutely nostalgic!Off to fry my 'begunis' now - can't hold back any longer;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. delicious fritters...nice presentation..

    Join with me for the Just "4" Fun event :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Very delicious fritters,love this any time!!
    Check out my version as well http://erivumpuliyumm.blogspot.com/2012/01/egg-plant-fritters-vazhuthananga-bhajji.html

    Erivum Puliyum

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Suchi, thanks for your comments, and following me, you have a very nice space too, the aubergine fritters look really too good, glad to follow U back..

    ReplyDelete
  10. The fritters looks great and nice.

    ReplyDelete
  11. fritters looks awesome..very interesting recipe...clicks r awesome suchi

    ReplyDelete
  12. fritters look fabulous... never tried making this using aubergines... would certainly give this a try...

    ReplyDelete
  13. fritters looks yummy and great.u have a nice space.........

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Suchi, your fritters look delicious and appetizing. yummy.
    Have a nice day.

    ReplyDelete
  15. i love brinjal spl snacks....loving it

    ReplyDelete
  16. Never knew our good old "begunis" had such a tongue twisting name :) Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  17. These look yummy! Would love to have that with a hot cup of chai.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Loved this fritters..:) My co-sister is from Bengal and I had yummy food in Kolkata last year..:))

    Wonderful..
    Reva

    ReplyDelete
  19. i just love the super hot "muri-beguni bhaja".....glad to find a Bengali cook...following you :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dear Suchi,
    I am delighted to pass on the Liebster award to your lovely blog!Please do take out time to stop by and collect your award here
    Your Liebster Award
    See you!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh! simply loved this post Suchi and couldn't stop myself from writing here..I can picture that tele bhaja corner with all the chaos in the backdrop..love beguni and also tele bhaja diye muri..hugs and smiles

    ReplyDelete
  22. Suchi,
    Firstly, thanks for visiting my blog :)

    I love fritters- gives me an excuse to use my deep fryer ;) I've never had aubergine fritters before. THese looks scrumptious!

    ReplyDelete
  23. You gave me a craving for fritters now! Looks yum!
    First time here. So happy to follow you :)
    Ongoing-''Valentine's Day Event''(till Feb 20th)

    ReplyDelete
  24. ambiance of the street where the fritters are sold is captured beautifully..
    lovely tempting pics too!
    would love to try them!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Loved reading your post, and hearing about the street food tradition! These fritters are so tempting, spicy, crunchy, and delicious! I would love to try these:DDD
    Thanks for following my blog...followed you back!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hi Suchi,
    Nice meeting you and thanks for your visit.Tomar bloge eshe darun lagche ar sobchye bhalo laglo eta dekhe ja tumi London bose beguni kahte authentic thonga use korecho....I feel proud to have a friend like you dear! Tomar beguni to ekdom perfect jekono North Calcuttar dokan ke har mananbe!
    Khub khub bhalo theko!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks everyone for all your lovely and encouraging comments :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh, I'd love to taste your marvelous fritters...they sound wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Shuundor! My mom favourite snack..beguni with muudi! nice post:)

    ReplyDelete
  30. hi Suchi
    am reading through your delicious posts and anecdotes. delightful, i must say :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Looks absolutely awesome and perfect

    ReplyDelete
  32. I have heard of these fritters a lot, never could try them . Looks quite tempting Suchi, good work done

    Happy to follow u

    Cheers
    UK Rasoi
    Ongoing Event : For U - MUM''

    ReplyDelete
  33. I am sure this post has touched all the internet viewers, its really really good piece of writing
    on building up new weblog.
    My webpage - Lion King Tickets

    ReplyDelete
  34. That is a really good tip especially to those new to
    the blogosphere. Short but very precise information… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read article!
    My page: Book of Mormon Tickets

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my space and spending some time here. Hope you enjoyed your stay. I will be very happy if you choose to leave a comment.
Au revoir friend!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...