Bali, bali! It was probably the first expression I learned in Korean. Meaning “hurry,” the exclamation is indicative of the Korean mentality: hurry up and wait. Not really grasping the concept of cohesive planning, this country seems to make many decisions at the last possible second. This almost always culminates in a mad rush, followed by an inevitable lull during which the consecutive decision waits to be made. Followed, of course, by another hasty dash.
18 months ago, with my life carefully stacked into storage pods in Denver, I still had no idea where I’d be moving. After a scramble to meet the application deadline, I waited for an interview. Weeks passed before one was requested. When the time was selected, without advance warning, I was to be available within 8 hours. Following the chat, I waited.
When word finally reached my email, it was that I should prepare to sign and return documents on their way to my house immediately. Documents detailing where I’d live and the level I’d be teaching? Oh no, no, that decision hadn’t been made. I’d find that out 8 days after my arrival in Korea, on the day before I moved in. I had to learn to go with the flow (and breathe deeply).
This ability came in handy during my time in India this past winter. On more than one bus ride, without warning, small windows of time were allowed to “take care of business.” During one such window, hunger plagued me. Unsure of just how long our bus would remain in the station, I frantically located the nearest castle of fried treats.
The crowds didn’t ease the rush
Noting some fresh round patties in contrast to the fly ridden stocks, I said I’d take two. Not really sure what I’d purchased, I bowed my head and streamlined it to the bus. I was happily surprised by the sweet onion flavor when I dug in on board. Turned out I’d grabbed a bhaji, and the craving was logged in my psyche.
This week, I decided to try my hand at homemade. The recipe seemed straightforward enough, and I’ve never known fried onions to turn out bad. Turns out I was right; simple and delicious. One recommendation, however, is to be sure you slice the onion thinly. Mine were a bit too chunky.
To compliment the little fritters, I simmered up some mango chutney. Canned mango is available rather readily, and I had some spices on reserve from my trip.
All in all, the snack was ready in under an hour. Next time you’re surprised with company, they’ll be just the thing.
Onion Bhaji – From BBC Food
2 free-range eggs
3 onions, sliced
120g/4oz plain flour (1/2 cup for the imperialists out there)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra if required
1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
2. Add the onion rings and mix well.
3. Add the flour, ground coriander and cumin seeds and stir well to combine.
4. Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add a large spoonful of the bhaji mixture and fry for 30-45 seconds, until golden-brown.
5. Turn the bhaji over and fry for a further 30 seconds, until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
6. Repeat with the remaining bhaji mixture, replenishing the oil in the pan if it runs low and allowing it to heat up again after a new addition.
Yields about 1 cup
1 ripe but firm green mango (450 -500 g)
1 sticks cinnamon (about 2 inch)
2 whole cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp ginger, grated
2-3 whole dry red chilies
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar (if you have access to Indian jaggery use 3/4 cup- 1 cup powdered jaggery depending on the sweetness)
1/2 cup vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
Cut the mango into 1 inch cubes and for chunky chutney, keep some pieces about 2 inch. If you are looking for smooth, cut them all in same size.
Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the spices into a bundle. Cook the mango, spices (in the muslin cloth), water, ginger and garlic until the mango is tender. Some pieces will disintegrate into the water. Takes about 10 minutes.
Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and dry chilies. I like to break 1 red chilly into flakes and keep 1 whole. If you want and are feeling adventurous you can go up on the chilies. The sugar requirement may also vary depending on the sweetness of your mango and personal preference. Feel free to reduce or add as per your liking.
Cook for about 30 -35 minutes until the chutney is thickened. Squeeze every bit you can from the cloth and discard it. Transfer to sterilized jars while still hot. Don’t put the lid, until the chutney cools. It keeps well for 4 weeks in the refrigerator.