Gastronomically speaking, it is fun to be a Bengali! The daily meal of a Bengali (people who belong to West Bengal, India) is elaborate. Gone are the days when having rice with five or six bowls of different vegetarian and non-vegetarian curries, five kinds of fritters (called bhaja in Bengali), sweetened yogurt (mishti doi) and sweets in lunch is considered as a kind of status symbol. However, a modern Bengali still prefers to have atleast three kinds of accompaniments with rice as a part of the daily meal.
There is “magic” in plain Bengali food: once you eat, you’ll never forget the taste! There are certain dishes which are inevitable in a Bengali household: one being the “postor bora”, in which white poppy seeds are mixed with a little wheat flour, turmeric powder and salt (red chilli powder can also be added) and deep-fried in mustard oil to make these super-crisp fritters. Poppy seeds are also known as khus khus or posto in Indian language.
These fritters are a little tricky to make. You need to know the right amount of flour to be added to the poppy seeds: if the amount is more, the fritters would be soft from inside, which is undesirable. The texture should be a bit hard, both inside as well as outside. Experienced Bengali cooks say, if you bite into one, it should produce a crackling sound. So, I hope you got the idea: correct amounts of ingredients and relaxed frying are the watchwords for the perfectly crisp fritters.
The Vegan recipe discussed here is one of the heirloom recipes in Indian cuisine, passed over many generations in West Bengal (Kolkata), and relished as a starter for lunch or as a side-dish with plain red or moong lentils and rice. I learnt this from my mother-in-law, who is a great cook and I follow her cooking almost blindly. Thanks, mom, for passing me such an authentic recipe!
Postor Bora (Crackling Poppy Seed Fritters)
- White poppy seeds: 5 tbsp
- Wheat flour: 3.5 tsp
- Turmeric powder: ¼ tsp
- Salt: ½ tsp (or according to taste)
- Red chilli powder (optional): ½ tsp
- Water: just enough to bind the ingredients
- Mustard oil: for deep-frying
Combine the first five ingredients together with minimum amount of water. Adding even a liitle bit of extra water will ruin the crispiness. For those who are attempting this starter for the first time, it is a good idea to add water with a tablespoon to keep a tab on the thickness of the batter.
Heat the mustard oil till it smokes. Reduce the flame to medium and add the fritters or boras in small clusters, making sure to leave a little gap between each of them. After 3 min, reduce the flame to the lowest and continue to fry till the bottom part solidifies and becomes brownish. Occasionally, you may increase the flame a bit, but make sure to reduce it after around 2–3 min.
When the bottoms of the fritters are well-browned, flip over carefully and continue to fry over a low flame, till the fritters are browned over both the sides.
Remove on absorbent paper and serve immediately for extra crunch! These are served with rice and lentils.
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