Street food culture has always been thriving & vibrant in India. The North (Delhi) with its delectable 'Chaats' (literally transalated as 'to lick' indicating the finger licking attributes of these delectable treats), the West (Mumbai) with its Pav vada & Pav bhaji & the East (Calcutta) with its repertoire of milk based desserts.
The Southern states, in contrast, being more conservative in outlook, never really had much of a street food culture. Street food was frowned upon & even possibly perceived as an affront to home food if any overt preference was displayed. Yes, there are stalls galore, but in the past it has always been subsistence for workers who did not have access to fresh home food. Of course that is changing rapidly.
One of the classic offerings from these carts was 'masala vadai', made with banana blossoms (yes these are edible, and extremely labor intensive to prepare). they have a texture similar to artichokes and a tannic textural mouthfeel. & the prep work is almost identical to that of artichokes,
Since banana blossoms are harder to obtain at this time of the year in New Jersey, Substituting fresh baby artichokes made for a very pleasant dish, a Sunday tea time snack to be relished with a piping hot cup of coffee or masala tea.
- Makes 10-12 pieces
baby artichokes (to yield ~ 2/3rd of a cup of minced artichoke 'meat')
split dried Garbanzo beans (chana dal, available in Indian groceries)
scallions, chopped (just the white & light green part, not the dark green leaves)
fresh chopped mint
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
- Soak the Chana dal in warm water for ~ 2 hours.
- Combine all the ingredients except the artichokes & salt & blend into a coarse paste using minimal water. Set aside.
- Using a small paring knife, trim off the leathery outer leaves, exposing the closed part of the artichoke. Cut off the top half of the artichoke retaining only the pale yellow base.Dice this soft edible part of the artichoke and drop into acidulated water (water with the juice of 1 lemon added). Prior to combining with the vadai batter, remove the water & mince into small bits. Measure out required amount and add to the prepared batter (2/3rd of a cup).
- Add salt to taste and shape into flattened discs or patties of approximately 2 inch diameter.
- Heat oil in a cast iron wok. When the oil is sufficiently hot deep fry the patties in batches of 2 - 3, until golden brown on both sides.
- Remove from the oil & drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil.
- Serve warm with a side of ketchup or sweet & Sour Tamarind sauce: http://www.food52.com/recipes/10460_sweet_sour_tamarind_sauce