Zucchini Flower Bhujias


If there is one word I hate in the English dictionary, it has got to be the word “normal.”

Normal is the word that’s tacitly bandied around in front of us all day, every day, from the moment we’re born. Act normal. Think normal. Be normal so everyone will like and accept you.

But normal is boring. Normal is what makes us a world where we all want to be like someone else, so we all end up being the same. And where’s the fun in that?

Instead, give me unusual any day. Or extraordinary, odd, eccentric, weird even– anything other than normal, so long as it doesn’t cross over into evil or harmful. After all, it is those unusual, eccentric, odd people who make me wonder, make me curious, make me want to know what ticks in their heads.

Over time, they are also the ones we remember once time and space has washed away most memories of those who were, well, normal.

I have been lucky enough to come across my share of ordinary people who were anything but normal.

Like David, a homeless wanderer who sometimes sauntered into our neighborhood every once in a while when my brother and I were little children. The adults whispered David was “mad,” meaning he didn’t think like them, I guess, but we kids loved him and looked forward to his visits with all the curiosity we had in us. The minute someone spotted David, the word would spread fast and all the kids in the neighborhood would gather round him. He would regale us with fantastic stories and play air guitar and have us laughing harder than any other adult ever could or did.

There was Kohinoor, a fellow journalist I met at a newspaper I worked at in Bombay, the Independent. She was quite unlike any person I’d known, because she was so at peace with herself. She didn’t try to look like the other journalists, she didn’t act like them, and she spoke only when she had something to say. But she was smart and she wrote beautifully, and when she left to get married and move to another city, I remember, I missed her more than I’ve missed friends I’ve known much longer.

Or Dennis, a close friend of Desi’s and later mine, who is perhaps one of the most unusual people I’ve ever met. He was loyal and generous to those he cared about, but he didn’t think he had to live by the rules. He would give you every last penny he had if you needed it, but he wouldn’t stand for someone telling him how to live his life. He was as different from Kohinoor as one can possibly imagine, but he was– in a strange way– not unlike her, in that he didn’t seem to spend any time worrying about being liked and accepted by the rest of the world. There were a lot of people who thought he was crazy and often said so, and perhaps he was, but he also is one of the most memorable people I’ve ever known.

I thought about the word “normal” because these past few days, since Michael Jackson died, it’s been used so often by the media. He was a great artist, they all say, but if only he’d been normal… Well, I, for one, am glad he didn’t fit into a word as restrictive as normal, or he perhaps wouldn’t be the genius he was.

So here’s to not being straitjacketed into “normal.” To being ourselves, and to looking for those things in life that make us truly happy, regardless of how we appear to the rest of the world, so long as our actions don’t hurt others.

We deserve it.



Today’s recipe for Zucchini Flower Bhujias or Pakoras is something I thought of making after watching all those beautiful bright-yellow blossoms on my zucchini plants dying unsung, even as I waited for the zucchini fruit to arrive. I had heard you could eat the flowers but had never cooked them before. I looked up some recipes online and came across a few southern-style recipes for zucchini fritters dipped in batter, then deep-fried.

Since pakoras or bhujias are nothing but Indian-style fritters, I thought I’d use a pakora batter for my zucchini flowers.

I love anything deep-fried, but these pakoras were a joyful surprise. They cooked up light, fluffy and simply delicious– a perfect teatime snack for a Sunday afternoon.

I served these with a chutney similar to this one.

Enjoy, all!

Zucchini Flower Bhujias (Pakoras)

Ingredients:

10 zucchini flowers

3/4 cup chickpea or garbanzo bean flour (besan)

1/2 tsp cumin seeds + 1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (coarsely powdered)

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp baking soda
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients except the flowers in a bowl. Add just enough water to make a thick paste.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a skillet to between 350 and 375 degrees.

Dip each zucchini flower in the batter to coat evenly, then drop in the hot oil. You can deep-fry several at a time, but make sure you don’t crowd the skillet.

Fry on each side until golden brown and puffy.

Serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Comments

  1. says

    I like the sound of your friend Kohinoor. I like quiet people who know who they are. I guess I like being normal- but normal isn’t the same for everyone, whats normal for me will be very strange for someone else. I also like the thought of normal days- how to make it special, or extraordinary or how to find joy in simple things is up to us. Perhaps the point of view needs to be extraordinary?
    The flower pakodas sound so exotic. I love the first picture.

  2. says

    I didnt know Zucchini flowers can be made into anything. My squash flowers are having untimely death too, may be I should make these fried goodies.

  3. says

    I like the line where you say we deserve it. How true Vaishali! Far too many people all over the world bend over backwards everyday to please others … and sometimes not too happily too. How I wish everybody could be as they want to.
    We do fry pumpkin flowers the way you did … so am eyeing those bhujias with a lot of … sigh … envy. :-)

  4. says

    I never knew u could eat these. If one doesnt have access to these flowers what can this batter be used to coat?
    Yes normal is boring but anything not normal to other scares them so it always comes over and negative.

  5. says

    Bharti, Kohinoor certainly was special. And I love simple and uncomplicated moments and people too. What I mean by people who are not normal is essentially people who don’t follow “the rules” that rule our lives most of the time. It must be extraordinarily freeing to live as one pleases, but it’s not something most of us– me included–dare to do. Usually we just accept what we learn is the way to do things.

    Pavani, Hope you try them!

    Sharmila, Priya, Parita, Curry: Thanks!

    Carribeanvegan: You can use the batter to coat onions, potatoes sliced thinly, green peppers, even eggplant or zucchini.
    And I know what you mean by not being normal scares people– which is why freeing oneself of what people think is so liberating. Truth be told, I’m not brave enough, but I admire it in those who can do it.

  6. says

    So true Vaishali! So glad that you wrote about this. for some reason we have a very “strange” but small circle of friends.. the kind they are so different in their won ways that we cannot even have them over all together! sometimes we get pitiful looks from some of our “normal” friends for getting associated with the strange group:-( isn’t that a pity? well we are happy & so are our strange friends, just happy to hang around & not talk if we did not want to thru the entire evening.

    in Bengal it is very common to fry the squash flowers in besan batter, with may be little kalonji in the batter. we would wait for these when we were kids:-)

  7. says

    Ah I was hoping I’d see this on an Indian food blog! Gorgeous! I saw these in Chopped – Food network and saw them fried (tempura batter) and wondered what they taste like, I mean the flower part, does it have a texture or taste we can relate to? Do u remove the stalks?

  8. says

    Manasi, they taste really divine– they don’t have a specific taste, but get really light when fried in the batter. The flower petals are so thin, you don’t discern a texture. And yes, I do remove the stalks. To be honest, I was a little wary before I made them the first time, but once I did I couldn’t stop.

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