One item which is a must in every thali at lunch when guests come visiting to a Bihari home are bajkas. These are fritters made out of assorted vegetables. These are quick to make and can be served as the guests sit down to eat. These are not the same as pakoras, and there are distinctive differences. The same dish is called tarua in the Mithila region. Elsewhere you will find them called chakka sometimes.
Biharis consume vegetables in much larger quantities, than for instance an average Maharashtrian does. We have often been questioned by locals who want to know how many members we are shopping for, when we buy vegetables! But it is a community trait where the serving portions of vegetables, in all forms (stir fried, curries, mashed, and other forms) are much larger. So it is no surprise that deep-fried fritters of almost every possible vegetable make their way into a bajka.
Bajkas can be made out of potatoes, egg plant, raw plantains, lauki (bottle gourd), kohda (yellow pumpkin), parwal (pointed gourd), oal (suran or elephant yam), arvi patte (colacasia leaves), pumpkin flowers or cauliflowers. A typical Mithilanchal meal will have tarua made out of leaves of tilkor which is a creeper which produces kundru-like fruits. In fact there is a saying in Mithila which goes: मिथिलाक भोजन तीन, कदली, कबकब, मीन. It means there are three essential ingredients in a Maithil meal: kadali or raw plantains, kabkab which means suran (elephant yam or jimmikand) and meen or fish. Bajkas are fried until crisp and served with a typical thali of rice, dal and vegetables.
Assorted vegetables- use one or many of the vegetables mentioned above Besan/ gram flour- 1 cup Rice flour- 2 tbsp Ginger-garlic paste- 1 tsp Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp Red chilly powder- 1 tsp Cumin powder- 1 tsp Black pepper powder- 1/2 tsp Salt to taste Oil for deep frying
Wash and slice the vegetables (potato/ plantain/ lauki/ brinjal/ parwal/ pumpkin) into thin even slices. If you are using cauliflowers, break them into medium-sized florets and parboil them before using.
To make the batter, add besan and rice flour to a large bowl. Add the ginger-garlic paste, spices and salt to it. Some people add one tsp of baking soda. I avoid it. Slowly add water in small batches and whisk well so that there are no lumps. You must get a thick batter which coats the vegetables well.
Heat oil in a kadhai. Traditionally these are cooked in mustard oil. If you are not used to its flavour, use any vegetable oil. Bring the heat down to medium-hot. If the oil is too hot the vegetables might not cook well inside the batter. So it is important to control the heat.
Coat the vegetable slices in the batter. Slide in small batches of the vegetables in the hot oil. Deep fry, turning them on both sides until golden brown. Remove the bajkas when crisp.
Drain on a kitchen towel so that excess oil is removed. Serve immediately.