Monday, November 14, 2011

Jalapeno Poppers, Bhajiya Style.

***Jalapenos are nasty spicy things that will secrete hot oils that will stick to anything that comes into contact with them, So make sure you use eye wear, gloves or even a bio-hazard suit if you prefer, but consider this adequate warning to keep yourself safe and be responsible for taking the precautions***

If you have ever visited Seattle or lived here for some time, you would know all about the weather here. Its 3 months of sun for the whole year and the rest is just a big Bonus! The lack of sunshine creates a whole breed of grumpy peeps, who wont smile back at you or wont return your good mornings. And the ones who smile despite of all that gloominess and frequent showers, do get exhausted even before the day ends, like a drained battery.
For these Seattle days, when the sun actually doesnt turn up for his working hours; the gray clouds, and constant drizzle drive you to almost killing yourself.
Without much ado, her it goes:-
A hot cuppa tea + Some thing fried and Hot= Instant "Flip a Finger" to the Weather
It also applies to Indian Monsoons, London Rains, and might even work in Alaska, but hey, they do have their own antidotes and besides, Russian vodka is always a stone's throw away! This formula, that is used-a-lot by me, is also one of the reasons my weight wont go down after we moved to Seattle.  :-D
The batter recipe below is the standard basic one and for milder veggies, add chili powder to the mix. And since the Popper is made from Jalapeno, I have omitted the chili powder. And any veggie can be used with the batter to make an assortment of Bhajiyas.
And yep, from a health point of view, these are just fried veggies, but if you feel guilty, just focus on the Veggie part of it....We could have done much worse! 
So these hot poppers are essentially what we call "Bhajiya" in India. In Mumbai, you'll see almost every evening, about 2 hrs after lunch hours, near bus-stands, railway stations, schools, colleges and big offices, street vendors parking their carts, chopping fresh veggies, mixing big bowls full of a pale yellow gram batter, thick and kind of raw smelling from the gram and enticing with the aromas of turmeric and fresh coriander leaves. 
Their standard menu consists of batata wadas (spiced mashed potatoes, with green chilies and coriander leaves, battered and fried), bhajiyas (thinly sliced potatoes, eggplants,capsicums and onions, battered and fried) and samosas. And then what happens is, the office boys, peons, gophers or even the mighty consumer himself coming and ordering huge or small orders of the hot sizzling delicacies, made on the spot, and smartly wrapped in oil-absorbing newspaper bits. And once a vendor starts churning them out, he stops only when his veggies are all gone or the batter is all out. And then there are exclusive vada-pav stalls, specializing only in batata wadas served inside fresh pavs (a cross between an english muffin and artisan crusty breads...ah, there's just no comparison!) served with the fiery red dry chutney made from dry coconuts, chili powder and roasted garlic. These snack vendors were pretty competitive with their prices, and as a result everyone could afford them. The way, we managed our allowances, the first of the month we bought samosa plates, and the next week, a humbler samosa inside a pav, and by the third week, money was running low and it would be a cheap but filling vada pav; and the last week had a month-end special, originally born in our college canteen and it was called a chutney pav....which meant stuffing the pav with the fried tidbits at the bottom of the fried bhaji bowl and smeared generously with a tangy sweet tamarind-date chutney!!! And if the canteen guy took a little pity on us, he would throw in a really thin potato bhaji or onion crumb into it. Be what it may, a bite of that heavenly grub, and the taste buds would wake up from the slumber and run around screaming in joy!

That brings me back to my kids, and incidentally, this was the first taste of India they got after Americanizing their taste buds for quite sometime. Actually, I'm not counting the times I made stuff for them that I grew up eating, but the very first time, they actually ate it from a food cart. They enjoyed the experience and couldnt wrap their heads around the fact that why Mom was freaking out every day, expecting her babies to collapse from hepatitis, stomach flu, or at the least food poisoning. Funny how we turn hypocrites, and worry over getting the kids sick every time some tap water (filtered twice and boiled....oh yeah!) crosses their lips! I dont ever remember me getting a food poisoning in the 5 years of my college life that I spent eating from these very stalls, morning, noon and evening.
(By-the-way, someone needs to invent a USB Smacker for ADD affected peeps like me...when they stray from the original topics. Hmmm!) Without much ado, here's Mamma's  Monsoon Special, Jalapeno Popper.


Jalapenos---about 10 (Use disposable latex gloves if you can while doing the following. If not, soak your hand in buttermilk and wash with soap as many times as it will take the spice off your fingers. See thats why I asked for the latex or rubber gloves...its so darn easy that way!) Slit them without actually breaking them off into 2 pieces, and try to remove all the seeds and white membranes from inside. I worked a way around slitting it into identical halves starting from the stem, so that when the slit side is down, it looks whole! ;-)
Oil---enough to deep fry (use vegetable, canola or peanut oil)

Salted Buttermilk- enough to soak the Jalapenos (save it for the recipe that follows after the Popper recipe.)

For Batter:-
1 1/2 cup gram flour/ besan
1/2 cup rice flour (you could make it all besan, but the rice flour makes it crunchier without any baking soda)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1/4 tsp cumin powder

Soak all the slit chilies in the buttermilk for about 30 mins.
Mix all the batter ingredients with just enough water to make it thick like pancake batter.
Heat the oil, in a fry pan making sure it has plenty space for those Jalapenos to float and get all toasty in there.
Remove, drain and shake the chilies, and get rid of as much buttermilk from it. Protect your eyes.
Dont throw away that buttermilk yet...I will share with you what my Dad usually does to that bowl full of Jalapeno flavored buttermilk... see note at the end. I must be suffering from Christmas spirit or something! 
Now using the stem as a handle, dip the jalapeno into the batter and drop them into the hot oil. Fry them for about 3-4 minutes per side in medium fire. If it gets too brown too fast, lower the heat. You need the flesh of the chili to cook all the way.
Drain in paper towels, and serve with a cool dip like yogurt/ ranch or sour cream, that will neutralize any heat in them. And don't forget that hot cup of tea! Enjoy your Finger-flipping to the weather! ;-)

 What to do with the leftover Buttermilk:-
Mix half a tsp turmeric to that buttermilk, mix well and keep it aside. Finely chop 3-4 cloves of peeled garlic and 3-4 small shallots. Now heat 2 tsp oil in a sauce pan, throw in a tsp of mustard seeds, a tsp cumin seeds and 2-3 curry leaves. When the mustard seeds crackle, throw in the chopped shallots and garlic. Saute until soft and stir in the buttermilk. Now reduce heat and stir continuously. Lift the stirrer and check if steam rises from it. the minute you see steam, remove the pan from heat. You have Jalapeno-buttermilk kadhi...perfect to drink as it is, or on rice!

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