Agast ke phool ke bajke: Festival-special fritters
November 10, 2020
Fritters (bajke) made out of Agast flowers are commonly made around Chhat in Bihar, and usually on Bhai Dooj day. On these festival days, due to the huge demand, these flowers sell for anywhere between Rs 800 to Rs 1000 per kg in Patna. These crisp fritters have a slightly bitter aftertaste.
These flowers are known by various names across India. Some of the names which I have compiled are: August/Agast ke phool (Hindi), Agastya (Sanskrit), Hadga or हादगा (Marathi), Bok phool (Bangla), Buko (Odiya), Agati (Tamil), Akatti (Malayalam), Agase (Kannada), and Avisa (Telugu). These flowers and extracts of their leaves are said to have medicinal value and are used in Ayurveda for several purposes, including for inhibition of the formation of advanced glycation endproducts. The leaves are also consumed in curries in a number of countries in South Asia.
My biology teacher, Mrs Annapoorna Ramakrishna used to love teaching us about the intricacies of flowers and their floral diagrams. So I’m on a botanical voyage today in case you are interested. The scientific name of this plant is Sesbania grandiflora. These flowers which belong to the Fabaceae or legume family, and have the typical configuration of the leguminous flowers. There is a beautiful large petal which stands out like a flag with an arched back which is called the banner or standard. The bottom two petals are fused together in an arched shape called the keel. There are two other petals adjacent to the upper petal, which are called the wings. Nine of the ten stamens are fused to form a single firm filament.
The reason I am explaining this, is because one needs to clean the flowers before use. First, separate the flowers by removing the green pedicel which holds the petals together. Then snip off the firm filament at the centre of these flowers. Discard the green pedicel, the thickened filament as well as any petals which might show signs of drying. Now that you have separated the fresh white flowers, wash them before you use them to make the fritters.
Agast ke phool ke bajke (Agast flower fritters)
Agast flowers- 10-12 Besan/gram flour- 1.5 cups Rice flour- 2 tbsp Ginger-garlic paste- 1.5 tsp Red chilly powder- 1 tsp Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp Coriander powder- 1 tsp Black pepper powder- 1/2 tsp Oil for deep frying Salt
Separate the green pedicels, thick filaments and dried petals from the Agast flowers and discard. Wash the remaining clean petals.
Make a smooth batter using besan, rice flour and all the above mentioned spices (ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilly powder, black pepper powder, coriander powder and salt). Ensure that it is free of lumps. The consistency of the batter must be thick enough to coat the petals. Let the batter rest for 15 minutes.
Heat mustard oil in a kadhai.
Dip the petals in the batter and deep fry in oil until crisp. Drain excess oil on a kitchen towel.
My brother exclaimed, “If these are August ke phool, how are they available in November?” Well, the name is not August, it is Agast, after Agastya Muni who is part of the Saptarishi!