Humble vegetable or taste sensation? The onion bhaji.
As a cornerstone of Indian cookery, the onion is hard to beat. The many types available adds to a range of dishes that is as diverse as the climate, culture and religions found across the vast continent that is India. Onions contribute to the overall depth of flavour, texture and aroma of the finished dish and are versatile enough to be eaten cooked or raw. They are roughly chopped, diced, sliced, minced and simmered into sauces, curries, chutneys, and pickles.
Onions are chosen for attributes unique to their type. Popular for their versatility in curries and chutneys is the yellow onion. Although more highly pungent than most other types of onion, yellow onions cook to a golden caramel colour and are full of sweetness.
For sharp flavour, the white onion is often eaten raw. Their crunchy texture is favoured in salad dishes and pickle trays, but are just as commonly used in sauces and curries. Red onions, on the other hand, have a milder taste. They do not have the same depth of flavour as yellow onions, nor the sharpness; but they are just as popular where raw onion is required.
In Bangladesh, tonnes of onions are grown every year with the main crop, or Rabi, harvested during the early summer. A later harvest, the Kharif crop, is grown during the monsoon season between June and October. Despite having the benefit of two growing seasons, Bangladesh struggles to produce enough onions to supply the domestic market and needs to import from neighbouring states to fulfil demand; such is the appetite for onions.
Take the onion bhaji, for example. As far as archetypal fast food goes, this is surely it! Packed full of flavoursome onions seasoned with just the right amount of spice, all held together with a light, golden batter, the bhaji is everything a taste sensation should be. They are in demand from hawkers of street-food and award winning restaurants alike. Often served as a side dish with salad, they are eaten with a dipping sauce, lemon, or mango chutney.
Indian food bears all the hallmarks of simplicity and good quality ingredients. Cooking methods are far from complicated with many dishes cooked in one pot from beginning to end, so flavours are locked in.
There are many recipes for making onion bhajis, all of which come down to personal taste. Chefs and home cooks alike will add a pinch of this or that, add lentils or make the batter in a way that suits their methods or level of culinary skill, regional preferences and traditions. However they come together, though, the onion bhaji is a stalwart of mainstream Indian cuisine no matter what continent they are served up on.