Editor’s Note: If you grew up in Mombasa (or a coast-rooted family), you’d know that bajia/bhajia na viazi vya saa kumi ( 4 o’clock fried potatoes and fried lentil/pea patties) are a favorite and a necessity: especially for children. This snack, often consumed with ukwaju, mango-coconut chutney or chatini, and red pepper paste, is actually an Indian snack that has become very popular among many Kenyan communities. Though we in Mombasa like to reserve it with other bitings for our afternoon teas, bhajias can be consumed at any time as a snack or a starter. They are served at functions, weddings, birthday parties, at iftars etc. They also come in many varieties with some bhajias being made with potatoes instead of legumes. If you’ve had some before but have never known to make them, here’s a delicious recipe straight from Farhat Abbas’ kitchen.
Black eyed peas (soaked overnight)
Coriander (1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
Onion (2 - 3 tablespoons)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
Chili powder to taste (Optional)
Less than 1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder (Optional)
Green chillies to taste
Oil for frying (1/2 fry pan)
Wash the soaked black eyed peas and put them in a food processor. Add in the onion, coriander, salt, curry powder and green chillies.
Blend everything together (be sure not to overblend, though I personally prefer to overblend).
Then add your baking powder and mix well (remember that baking powder is optional).
Heat the oil in a wok or a deep frying pan. While the oil is heating up, take some of the mixture and make small to medium-sized balls. You can flatten the top and bottom a bit to make more patty-like bhajias (the thinner the patty, the crispier the bhajias). Drop each ball/patty into the hot oil only when the oil is nice and hot. You can test the hotness of the oil by dropping in one bhajia. If the oil is hot, the bhajia will float and start to bubble immediately.
If you cook bhajias in oil that is not properly heated, your bhajias will soak the oil and become soggy. Hot oil ensures that your bhajias are not soggy and turn out crispy.
Drop in your patties until you have a pan full of bhajias.
Bhajias are light and will float in the oil while frying. Let cook for a few minutes and turn the bhajias around to cook the other side until a golden to a medium brown in color.
Take them out of the oil and drain them on a paper towel or a pasta strainer. If you’d like, take one out to taste and see if fully cooked before taking out the rest.
Serve hot with an assortment of chutneys.