Purvanchali or Bhojpuri cuisine – which is food originating from the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, is a simple but interesting mix of ingredients, flavours and techniques. The bhujia – a style of preparing vegetables with spices and cooked until crispy, is one of the most unique aspects that define this food.
Amongst the many styles of vegetable preparations in Purvanchali cuisine, the bhujia – a stir frying method of cooking with ingredients is quite fascinating. Similar to the South Indian poriyal, where the cuts of vegetables and even-sized and precise, the bhujia also utilises a similar approach during the preparation process. Vegetables like radish, taro root, okra, ivy gourd, potatoes and snake gourd are some of the commonly used ingredients for this dry sabzi.
As diverse Purvanchali or Bhojpuri cuisine is in its wide number of bread preparations like litti, pua, dhuska and thekua, the dishes they’re eaten with also play an important role in adding to the experience. For the bhujia, vegetables are cooked in mustard oil and seasoned with spices, until they cook in their natural moisture and get to a point where they develop a crisp crust. This juxtaposition of the soft vegetable with a crisp exterior also pairs well with parathas and rotis.
Most interestingly, Purvanchali vegetable preparations have their signature underlying flavours – for example, the chokha will have a smoky aftertaste as a result of flame-roasting vegetables – whereas the kalauji cooks whole vegetables with a savoury stuffing. Similarly, the bhujia’s caramelised crisp flavour is also excellent when paired with a simple serving of dal-chawal. Another nuance about the bhujia that gives the dish its unique flavour is the chaunk – or a style of tempering where cumin seeds, red chillies and garlic are tossed into hot oil, as a way of extracting maximum flavour. Here is a recipe for the popular ivy gourd or kundru bhujia to enjoy with your chapatis, parathas and bread.