The Onion Bhaji at the Shafali Restaurant in Ottawa weren’t the prettiest example of this popular Indian appetizer, but they were well made.
The first time I ate at Shafali was getting on for fifteen years ago, when I enjoyed a terrific Thali style meal. Over the years I have been served some truly delightful dishes… their Curried Mussel Appetizer leaps to mind … and I have also had a few that were less than stellar. I am happy to report, though, that the little appetizer you see pictured above fell toward the excellent end of the spectrum.
I certainly agree that the visual appeal isn’t the best here, and, indeed, Shafali was never especially notable for its plating jobs, but the appearance doesn’t reflect the actual quality of the dish. The Bhaji themselves were also over-cooked a little, but, happily, this affected only the external color and not the taste or texture.
As you can see, the Bhaji were accompanied by a little salad. The dressing, here, was a mayonnaise with a ‘curry powder’ flavoring, and, while it was nice enough, I didn’t bother with it, especially since I had just had the same salad with another appetizer a few dishes before.
As for the Bhaji themselves, they had a nice crunch from the ends of the onions exposed to the deep-frying oil, and also from seed fragments in the spice blend. The taste of the Besan used to make the batter came through nicely, as did that of the Onion, and the spice blend was nicely balanced. I couldn’t really identify the components, other than the obvious Turmeric and Cumin. There was clearly some Chili added, probably powdered, but this was done with a light hand as the overall effect was very mild.
The sauce for dipping was not easy to identify and was more like a thin Chinese plum sauce than any sauce or chutney I have encountered in other Indian restaurants. It was okay but, really, the Bhajis didn’t need anything else to interfere with the lovely flavor. Aside from the rather unfortunate plating job and the overly dark color, I thought the Onion Bhaji at Shafali were among the best I have had, including my own.