Bhajias are an extremely popular snack across East Africa and Maru bhajias are quite famous in Nairobi. Maru bhajias are named after Muru, the owner of the restaurant. The bhajias became quite famous not just among the Indian community but with the locals as well, and on Sundays it was the must-go-to place to eat after spending the afternoon in Uhuru Park.
To enjoy the authentic experience you need to eat bhajias hot, drenched in spicy tomato and sour tamarind chutneys. Luckily enough, when the Marus came to the UK they opened a restaurant by the same name in Wembley, so I can still enjoy the true Maru bhajia here.
- 500g/1lb 2oz medium white potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2.5cm/1in piece of fresh ginger
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 4 chillies
- 60g/2¼oz/½ cup rice flour
- 1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
- 160g/5¾oz/1¼ cups chickpea/gram flour
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro, leaves picked and chopped
- 1 tsp marjoram/oregano or carom seeds
- Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
Pear and Tamarind Chutney
1. Place the potato slices in a bowl of cold water. Mince the ginger, garlic and chillies using a blender or pestle and mortar.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flours with the turmeric, salt, lemon juice, coriander and marjoram, then tip in the ginger, garlic and chilli paste and mix well.
3. Drain the potatoes and toss them into the spicy flour mixture, ensuring the slices are coated. (The trick to crispy bhajias is not to add water to the batter; the potatoes will release water once mixed with the other ingredients.) Set the potatoes aside for about 10 minutes while you make the chutney.
4. To fry the bhajias, heat the oil in wok over a high heat. It needs to be hot otherwise the bhajias will not crisp up. Slowly place the potato slices one by one into the hot oil. Work in batches – you should be able to get about a third of them into the wok – and do not overfill the pan, as the bhajias need space to move.
5. Cook for 2–3 minutes, turning once, until the bhajias are golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
Serve with the tamarind chutney.