Ever heard of the Awesome Blossom a.k.a Blooming Onion a.k.a Onion Blossom? Well, commonly found in American establishments (diners and steakhouses commonly serve them), this onion dish originally used the Vidalia onion, a large sweet onion. The onion is cut to resemble a flower, breaded and deep fried. As you can imagine, it’s oily and naturally, loaded with calories.
A relative of the bloom is the onion ring which is kinder to the arteries. Though fried, onion rings aren’t necessarily deep fried. Pan-frying with an inch or two of oil will suffice. Western recipes for onion rings call for the onions (cut in rings, hence the name) to be coated in white flour or cornmeal. Seasoning is mainly salt or sometimes garlic salt. New York Times columnist Mark Bittman dips his onions in milk and then flour and proceeds to fry them in olive oil. Some recipes call for the rings to be breaded. Others mix some baking powder in a flour batter for puffy rings.
While these rings are pretty nifty, I prefer the Indian version of the onion ring called the onion Bhajee. The concept is the same but the batter has a lot more kick in it. Instead of plain white flour, the Bhajee employs gram flour (that’s chickpea flour by the way) mxed with a little rice flour and chilli powder. I used about a cup of gram flour, 1 tbsp rice flour, 3/4 tbsp chilli powder. Oh, you also need a pinch of asofoetida. Finely chopped green chillies and curry leaves (and sometimes parsley) are also added. The dry mix is mixed with enough water to form a thick batter.
The onion rings are then coated generously with the batter (just chuck them into the bowl with the batter and mix them with your hands, ensuring they’re well and truly bathed in the batter). Heat oil to about 180C and fry the battered rings till they’re golden. Drain and enjoy.
Indian snacks use gram flour a lot and not just as a batter. The Bonda, for example, is a fried flour ball that’s made primarily of gram flour. Once again, mix the gram flour with some rice flour, chilli powder and asafoetida. Add finely chopped chilli, finely chopped spinach (lightly sauteed, just about 2 tbsp) and curry leaves (finely chopped also) and add just enough water to allow you to make little dough balls.
Again, heat about an inch of oil in a skillet and when hot, drop the dough balls (uneven shapes are customary!) into the oil and fry till golden.
Both the onion bhajee and the bonda are snacks, usually tea time snacks. Because of the gram flour, they’re quite filling. The bonda is best eaten with a coconut chutney (a southern Indian dip/sauce) while the onion bhajee is usually eaten with a mint chutney.
To top is off, have some lovely Indian spice tea (masala tea) and you’ll have a nice smile on your face. I guarantee.