Maru Bhajias are very popular and well known especially if family/friends with a Kenyan background. We used to live in Nyeri (town in Kenya) and I always remember on our trip to Nairobi, we would be treated to the bhajias from Slush. It was a popular place for Maru Bhajia and everyone recognised the blue and red writing shop. They came in takeaway boxes with the most delicious chutney.
Time went by and the bhajias made appearances at many street food eateries. The original recipe is still not known and some say it was sold to the popular Maru’s Bhajia House in Wembley but I am not sure if it is just a rumour.
With a family of great cooks, we had our recipe and I think it is very close to the original taste. The bhajia and chutney have to be enjoyed together to get that explosion of flavours – it has always been the case for us. The key is to eat them fresh.
They key to having the bhajias without spending hours in the kitchen is being prepared. Make the chutney and batter beforehand and have all the utensils ready.
- 2 fresh tomatoes
- 1/4 carrot
- 1/4 cucumber
- 10 stalks of coriander
- 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
- 4 tbsp Maggie chilli sauce (or any other ordinary chilli sauce)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp ground jiru cumin
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- juice of 1 lemon
- pinch of sugar
Gently blitz all the ingredients for the chutney in a food processor. It is effectively a salsa and should not be smooth.
- 8 potatoes (Less starchy ones)
- 1 cup gram flour
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp crushed garlic
- 1/2 tbsp crushed ginger
- 1 tbsp crushed green/red chillies
- 1 1/2 tsp turmeric (for colour)
- 1 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 1/2 tsp salt (depending on taste)
- 1 tsp thana jiru powder
- 1 tsp ground jiru (cumin)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander
- 1 1/4 cups cold water
- Make the batter by mixing all the ingredients above (apart from the potatoes and cold water). Gram flour can be lumpy, and I would advice to sieve it.
- Add in the cold water, bit by bit to form a mixture that is almost like pancake batter. Not too thick or too runny.
- Heat a large saucepan with salty water and bring to boil. While this is starting to heat up prepare the potatoes.
- Peel the potatoes and place in cold water. Use a mandolin to slice the potatoes thinly (thicker than crisps). You can slice them straight back into the water
- Boil the sliced potatoes, a few at a time. You need to put each slice individually to avoid them from sticking together. You only need to part boil them (3 min should be fine). Ensure they don’t overcook or else they will start to mush up and you don’t want that.
- Once boiled, take them out using a skimmer and spread the slices out onto a cooling rack. This will cool them down and remove excess water. Try not to overlap them too much.
- Put some batter on the flat tray then add a layer of potatoes. After each layer keep putting the batter to ensure each slice is coated. The batter should stick to the potato slices and give them that slight marinade (hence why the consistency is key.
- I find it easy to set a process going- boil, cool, coat. Repeat until finished.
- Heat a pan with oil for deep frying the coated bhajias. A pan with a flatter base is better to ensure even heat. The heat needs to be medium high.
- Each slice you put in should float right back up. If it does not, the heat is too low. If the bhajia browns too quickly the heat is too high.
- Place the slices in, one at a time to ensure they don’t stick to each other. Once you have enough bhajias in the pan, gently stir using a stainless steel drainer/skimmer. Occasionally turn and stir.
- They will take about 3/4 minutes to fry to a golden crisp colour. Use the skimmer to take the bhajias out, ensuring you drain out excess oily before placing them on some kitchen towel.
- Best enjoyed straight away with a lashing of chutney.
Less is more: When it comes to the batter, the layer you have coated the potato slices with is adequate. If you add too much more, you get bubbles which fill with oil.
Boiling them beforehand makes them less chewy
The batter can be used for other types of bhajias too. I remember my grandad and uncle used to like it with bananas..a sweet savoury thing.
Hope you get to make them. I am not a fan of deep frying but for these bhajias I don’t mind because they are just soooo scrumptious. PS. I actually think you can eat 3 potatoes easily in bhajia form….they are that good.