My first encounter with street-served Pao Bhaji was in Chennai, India. After a day long shopping spree in Spencer's Plaza, my pal and I were tired and starved to extinction (and who wouldn't in a mall like that?).
One option was to just go to the food court and enjoy the setting while munching on some local delicacy, sipping freshly squeezed mango juice from a straw and stare at the maddened crowd. The other choice was to get into the maddened crowd in the street and go with the flow, until you see a neat eatery set up on the street side...and believe me, there is plenty to chose from.
We ran into this small setup in front of a clothes shoppee that was offering Pao Bhaji.
I was not very familiar with this dish since it mainly belongs to North Indian suite, and certainly not cooked in my husband's side of the family. I had a spur of curiosity and decided to try it (my pal was of course well versed into it).
....5 years later...when I set the table ready my husband who also happens to be my CTO (Chief Tasting Officer) had a long stare at this one. I had to interfere and enlighten him about what he was going to have for his lunch. "Pao Bhaji , dear", I said. "The bhaji goes Russian today" to which he replied without hesitation " or maybe the....hmm...blinis go Indian?". Now you know the secret to this perfect marriage: Compromise!
I usually have the regular staples with bhaji- buns, naan, chapathi.....but today I thought of thinking outside the bun and try Blinis (Russian) or Blinele (Romanian) with it.
The versatile and ancient pancake appears in the cuisine of all the cultures that grow some sort of grain of which flour is produced. French crepes, German potato cakes, Irish scones, Mexican Hotcakes, Indian Pooda or Dosa, Rusian Blintzes and Blini, Romanian Blinele... Russia has even a folk holiday, called Maslenitsa where everything goes around Blinis. In Slavic mythology, Maslenitsa is a sun festival, celebrating the imminent end of the winter. As the culmination of the celebration, on Sunday evening, Lady Maslenitsa is stripped of her finery and put to the flames of a bonfire. Any remaining blinis are also thrown on the fire, and Lady Maslenitsa's ashes are buried in the snow (to "fertilize the crops").
So back to my lunch the other day. So Blinis and Bhaji tie the knot. I am not going to elaborate the process of my cooking since it is not my intention for this particular post. I will surely do it sometime for some of the categories I already have...so stay tuned!
Here is the picture of the final dish awaiting for the "I Do" statement.