Bhaja means fry or frying in Bengali ... usually a stir fried or deep fried vegetable dish ( of course there is non vegetarian version like the Maach Bhaja / Fish fry too ) that is eaten as a side dish of a meal.
There was ... and still is ... one direct train that I used to board every vacation to go home when I was a student. The journey used to be of two and a half days .... longer if it started late. I was never gregarious ... in fact very quiet ... so kept to myself. A book was enough to make me forget the time or stretch of the journey.
Since I was a regular traveller, one of the attendants became a familiar face to me. I never recognised any other attendant except this man. And strangely he was always there in every journey.
He seemed to keep an eye out for me. Never spoke unless absolutely needed .... and neither did I ... he was always around if I needed anything. I just had to look around and the moment he passed by he would look towards me .... and if I wanted anything, I just had to say it.
I would usually sleep in late ... and he would keep the breakfast pack without disturbing me. But after I got up he would come along, quietly pick up the pack and bring it back hot. I still don't know if it was a fresh pack or he reheated the stuff ... but I always got hot food.
Passengers were not usually pandered to and whatever was on the menu used to be served without any deviation. But for me, if I did not want a full meal, he would readily get an omlette and bread for dinner.
And when we reached our destination he would disappear. I never got 'round to ever thank him ... though I have no idea how I'd have thanked him then ... I used to be so shy. But the bottomline is he just used to do his job ... and disappear. Until another journey.
The train still exists ... but I have long forsaken it for greener pastures.
It was on this train, that I had this Alu and Borboti fry in one of the meals. Never to touch a vegetable then, I somehow liked this fry with the thick and slightly burnt parathas they served.
I have tried making it myself a number of times but could never get the right taste ... and had given up attributing it to that special taste or flavour all outside food have.
I tried making it again ... and this time used my cast iron wok / kadahi and instead of red chilli powder, I used ground black pepper for the spiciness.
The food for the train must have been prepared in large amounts ... so it's natural that it would get slightly burnt ... especially since this is a dry dish. But I purposely burnt it for that charred flavour.
Got that taste ... exactly that same rustic flavour. It was so perfect that it took me back to those journeys ... and I remembered the attendant. :-)
The taste also reminded me of such bhajas ( fries ) that were cooked in Thamma's ( paternal grandmom ) kitchen.
It was one of those days when all the snaps came out perfect ... so uploaded all of them. :-p
Borboti / Long Yard Beans - 1 bunch
Aloo / Potatoes - 1 or 2
Haldi / Turmeric powder - a little
Salt - to taste
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp ( other cooking oils can be used too ... but the flavour would be missing)
Black Pepper seeds - freshly crushed ... to taste
How to :
Wash and cut the beans and the potatoes into medium sized longish pieces ( check out the snaps for an idea).
Heat oil in a kadahi / wok. When it is very hot ( else the potatoes might stick ... unless you are using a non stick vessel), add the vegetables.
Add the haldi and salt.
Cover and cook ... stirring once in a while till the vegetables are done.
Add the freshly crushed black pepper and raise the heat. Stir fry on high heat till the vegetables start to char a little.
Remove and serve hot.
Enjoy this simple dish with some hot rice and dal.
Great with parathas too!
Am coming up with the all time fav Lauki ka Halwa in the next post ... so hang on till then friends. :-)