Almost four thousand miles separate Japan and India. And many light years separate the cultures of the two countries.
But Buddhism travelled all those miles from India, and was absorbed into Japan.
Now I don’t know very much about Japanese cuisine, being a vegetarian, and I’ve always believed that it was an untouched tradition that had not come under any outside influence. Indian food on the other hand has changed and evolved with every invasion or with trade and travel bringing in new ingredients and new cooking practices.
So it was an eye opener to find out recently that our humble bajji or pakoda, found in every tea stall from the Nilgiris to the Nanda Devi, travelled with Portuguese Jesuits to Macau and Japan and found a new avatar there–the tempura.
Wikipedia has a neat description as to why the name ‘tempura’ :
“The word “tempura”, or the technique of dipping fish and vegetables into a batter and frying them, comes from the word “tempora”, a Latin word meaning “times”, “time period” used by both Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to refer to the Lenten period or Ember Days (ad tempora quadragesimae), Fridays, and other Christian holy days. Ember Days or quattuor tempora refer to holy days when Catholics avoid meat and instead eat fish or vegetables”.
Here is a recipe my friend S used to make often for our group- the ‘Grange Girls’. A nibble of these pakodas, and you’ll look forward to making them!
3-4 onions, peeled
1-2 green chilis
1 cup Besan or chickpea/ garbanzo flour
Salt to taste
Chili powder to taste
A pinch of asafetida (optional)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of cashew nuts, chopped
1/2 cup of water to mix the dough
2-3 cups of oil to fry
Put the oil in a wok and heat.
Chop your onions and a green chili or two (optional).
Sieve the flour into a wide and shallow bowl. Add the spices and soda and mix well.
Add the onions and cashew nuts to the flour and divide into quarters.
Sprinkle a tiny amount of water onto a quarter of the flour and bind the flour and onions together.
The dough should not be wet, but clump together in small pieces.
Drop these roughly made pakodas into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden, turning the pakodas often.
Remove when done, with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Serve with a green chutney or tomato ketchup.
Makes about 10-15 delicious pakodas.
Do you have a favorite pakoda recipe? Do write in and share it.
Have a great Hari Raya Haji!