Zunka is a traditional side dish from Maharashtra made with roasted gram flour. It is very rustic, and has an extremely appetizing, and sunny appearance because of the bright yellow colour and the contrasting greens from the spring onion. The basic version is made with white onions (recipe here).
I had today’s versionat my workplace. One of the food suppliers to my office serves solely Maharashtrian cuisine and I tasted this version from his repertoire. It is so delicious! Initially it was only I who got hooked but now it is one of our family favourites.
Maharashtrians use the term ‘peeth perun bhaji’ to describe this and many other recipes where the flour (peeth) covers and coats the vegetables (bhaji) completely. Zunka is the most basic of all peeth perun bhajis.
This particular version is known as ‘patichya kandyachi peeth perun bhaji‘.
Fresh garlics in Spring, a still
I absolutely drool over the the subtle flavour of fresh garlic greens but they are not available till Spring. While we wait for Spring to take over we might as well use spring onions. Omit the dry garlic in the recipe if using fresh ones. If fresh ones are available use these in combination with spring onions or by themselves.
There is no definite measurement in savoury preparations as the idea is to titillate individual palates. The oil called for in an authentic recipe would be higher, as the quantity of oil make a lot of difference to the texture. The final product is much softer with more oil, but we have never faced a problem at home on that count. I have been making this slightly dry version with less oil for a long time and we are used to this.
This is one of my favourites from Maharashtra.
Vegan, soy/gluten/dairy and casein free
Yield: Serves 3
Bengal gram flour, roasted evenly till aromatic and browned on low or medium heat – 1 cup
Spring onions with greens, a small bunch – About 7, chopped rough
Oil – 2 tbsp., or more if you think the texture can be softer
Water – 3/4 cup, approximate
Sea salt – to taste
Green chillies – 3
Garlic – 5
Red chilli powder (optional) – to add heat as per taste
Ajwain / Carom seeds – 1/2 tsp.
Mince garlic and chillies together well in a mortar, and set aside.
Heat oil till hot. Add carom seeds, and chilli mince letting the garlic turn golden.
Add chopped spring onions, and a little salt. Fry till the onions start sweating and turn soft.
Add roasted gram flour, sprinkling it all over the onions. Mix well and roast for a few minutes till it evenly coats the onions.
Add salt and chilli powder to taste. Since water is to be added be careful to not add too much salt.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of water all over and mix immediately. Toss about and sprinkle another 1/4 cup of water.
Cook, tossing the gram flour lightly so that the water is absorbed evenly absorbed. You should have soft little lumps of gramflour.
Take care not to pour all the water in one place, else the mixture becomes lumpy and sticky. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and check.
The mixture would have become a little dry. If you prefer to have it soft, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of water and cook as before.
To have a softer texture, you can add more oil in the beginning.
You can also roast and crush peanuts into a coarse powder and add it to the onions before adding gramflour. This also gives a nice aroma.
Zunka is served with gluten-free flatbreads called bhakri. Bhakri is made with pearl and red millets or rice flour. You could also serve this with tortillas.
There are many versions to this dish depending upon region. Some call it pitla but my staunch Maharashtrian friends tell me that pitla is the wet version and zunka is the dry one.
You can use vegetables such as green capsicums and cabbage instead of onions.