Sometimes you just feel like eating fritters all day.
And every time, I promise myself not to have more than a couple of those deep-fried delights, and before I know it I’ve already downed eight and when someone makes the mistake of pointing that out, I immediately blame it on the delicious dip. Fritters come with a side of guilt. They grab you by the back of your collar with their crispy coating and then shake you with pleasure with the soft, creamy, hot and steaming fillings, and then they make your head hang in guilt and shame.
The best thing is that you can hardly go wrong with them. That is, unless you’re me and still going through that stage of life where you’re learning to keep the temperature of boiling oil steady.
They’re perfect on a rainy monsoon evening, for fancy finger-food at a party, its always easy to fry up a batch if you don’t mind getting a little messy and a most essential necessity when you have girlfriends over. In my case this time, it was one stormy evening.
They’re just plain good for you. For your soul, at least, if you’re OK with stretching your tube top out of shape.
And now I have to admit, I’m slightly prejudiced against deep-frying. But only slightly, considering the fact that I’m the last person to watch what I’m eating really. It’s not the fat content of deep-fried food that bothers me, it’s the heaviness of all that oil. A lot depends on the coating no doubt. An egg-n-flour batter or a heavily breaded coating is always mealier than buttermilk and crushed biscuits.
I’ve seriously gotten good at batters and coating food for frying, ever since I assisted my Mom for the first time in dredging 4-inch long fish fillets through egg and biscuit crumbs. That was about 14 years back and the ritual stuck and has remained in me as one of my favorite childhood memories. The coated fillets would be packed in cling film and stored for about 12 hours in the refrigerator, before she’d fry it for dinner or guests. It would serve as an appetizing first course for guests and would be accompanied by a simple concoction of steamed rice and dal for dinner at home. I would deliberately remove one or two fries from my plate, transfer them on a separate dish and pop them in the refrigerator. Why? So I could have them cold and smothered in mayonnaise, for breakfast the next morning!
Bengalis simply love their deep-fried goodies. They prefer it with their evening tea or coffee, between games of chess with their neighbors, over heated conversations about Central Government politics or football and even at posh wedding receptions. A Bengali evening is almost incomplete without vegetables wrapped lovingly in golden crispy coats and dripping with oil. And most often than not it’s a chickpea batter they use as “breading” and good old mustard oil with its distinct flavor, to fry the fritters in. Wafer thin slices of aubergine (eggplant), balls of boiled potato studded with chopped scallions and a heady spice mix, halved and de-seeded green or yellow bell peppers, salted slices of onions (the Indian version of “onion rings”) would be dipped and twisted in a semi-thick and light batter of chickpea flour, salt, pepper and water. Bengali evenings consist of these, either made at home, or bought from street-side vendors who’d wrap the fritters in flimsy bags made out of old newspapers along with a soggy cucumber-onion-beetroot salad. And our obsession with fried foods continue.
Crab-cakes or crab-fritters are not something you would generally expect to be served at any Indian household, if you’re looking for purely Indian cuisine, although crab meat does feature frequently on our seafood menu. Its just that, we were so busy grinding up spices to make curry paste for a delicious crab curry, that it didn’t even occur to any of us that maybe we could drag the crab meat through batter and fry them up.
The recipe I have here is a little bit Indian and a little bit borrowed. And I can’t tell you how well cumin goes with Worcestershire sauce!
What you need:
- 150gms crab meat
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 green chilies, de-seeded and chopped (leave the sees in for more heat)
- ½ tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil to shallow fry (I used groundnut oil)
- 10-12 digestive biscuits
- 1 egg, beaten lightly
- Mix the crab meat, onion, chilies, Worcestershire sauce, salt, cumin powder and coriander powder together.
- Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash them with a rolling pin (or something heavy) into powder.
- Add as much amount of the egg you need to form the mixture into small patties. I needed only about half the amount of the lightly beaten egg. If the mixture gets dry and difficult to work with, add some more.
- Roll and coat the patties in the biscuit.
- Heat oil in a shallow pan, reduce the heat to medium and fry the patties for about 3 minutes, turning them over once, or until they’re nicely golden with bits of brown.
- Serve with a mayo dip and cucumber or tomato salad.