Zucchini phula bhaja / Zucchini flower fritters

Being exposed to Odia cuisine through K opened up a new world of ingredients and methods to me. There were vegetables I didn’t know of, spices and pastes I had never tried, methods especially the diaspora of steamed dishes I took to really happily. It was also the first time I tasted and slowly developed an appreciation for mustard oil in cooking. 

One ingredient that fascinated me most and still does is the use of pumpkin flowers/ blossoms. I now know that squash flowers are used in different cuisines but somehow the prospect of making a savoury snack with a flower and such a wonderful simple dish at that quite blew me away. I eat these fritters made with pumpkin blossoms called khakharu phula bhaja, every time I visit K’s place in Bhubaneswar.  But this time, looking at all the zucchini blossoms I wanted to have a go at making it. We have a lot of squash blossoms coming up too and I must tell you that the success and ease of making them will only see us trying more. 

On seeing the burgeoning blossoms on our row of zucchini plants, one of our friends who was visiting us commented how Italians make fritters from them. Off-late, I have also seen it being used in salads and pastas. It is amazing how flowers have found their way to our dining tables and feature in such an array of dishes and share similarities across continents.

One of my key hesitations with picking these flowers was if they would be interfering with the pollination and affect the plant’s productivity itself. After all, I was looking forward to pulling the zucchinis off with gay abandon. And then I did some reading and realised that the male flowers are produced in much higher numbers than needed so plucking a few should be okay. This was really all I needed and you know the rest of the story. I am so glad I made these because I love them – the batter coating that turns so crispy and the subtle flower encased in it as you blow your way through eating it hot off the pan. The joy of fried food is never lost on me, I really enjoy it – especially when I am frying them at home, when there is the goodness of all that fat without it being excessively drippy to the point of churning your stomach. I eat them to my heart’s and stomach’s content but I am quite particular that it is fried in good oil, and not re-fried if I can avoid it.

Here is how I made it (I have some videos of the process of this up on my Instagram):

You need:

Zucchini blossoms – say 6.
Rice flour – About 3 table spoons (depends if you want to have a thick batter coating, I like mine just coated and not too much. If you like a dense coating, increase the flour keeping a 3:1 ratio of rice to chickpea flour)
Chickpea flour – About 1 tablespoon
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp/ to preference
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Neutral oil like sunflower to shallow fry – I use a spoon of oil for each blossom.

Method:

1. Clean the blossoms in water. Gently pat them dry with a paper towel.
2. Make a slurry of rice flour, chickpea flour, chilli powder, cumin powder, turmeric and salt. This should not be too thick or too runny. You want a consistency that you can immerse the flower in and when you take it out to fry, it should hold the batter. If you want a thick batter coating, make the slurry thicker so it hangs on to the blossom.
3. Take a small pan, bring to heat and add a table spoon of oil and bring to heat
4. Dip the zucchini blossom in the slurry (from 2) and fry it in the pan, flipping it and making sure it is done all through. I added some slurry as mine was thin. The extra slurry I added took the shape of the pan and cooked to a nice golden crisp around the edges.
5. That’s it really.

We enjoyed ours with some zucchini pasta 🙂

Some other ideas to try:
You can add garlic paste to the slurry. I don’t do it.
You can add finely chopped green chillies or make a paste of green chillies and garlic and add it to the slurry too. That would taste really nice and as I type this, I am tempted to try it myself.
You could make this with blossoms of pumpkins, zucchinis and quite a few squashes. I have only had pumpkin and zucchini ones.



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