Where else will you find pumpkin blossoms in Toronto?
From that same old Chinese lady who does not understand English. But she and I still talk. Since I cannot understand what she says in Mandarin, I resort to Bengali with her, “Didima, kumro phool koto kore?” (Grandma, how much for the pumpkin blossoms?)
“One dow-laar,” she’d say aloud and gesture by raising her index finger. She’d shake her raised finger a few times, till I nod and give her a loonie.
Our transaction is complete. I walk away. By now, I know that she doesn’t like people loitering around or taking photographs of her sitting on her folding chair by the Spadina sidewalk. They invariably get hit by the handle of her umbrella. And if you think I am making all this up, try dilly-dallying the next time around a very, very old Chinese lady in a sedge hat.
Six freshly plucked Pumpkin Blossoms for a dollar! I do not recollect having Kumro Phool Bhaja in my adult life. When Mum made it during those rare days that she did find them in the bajaar or some neighbor gave her a bunch, I’d ignore these pedestrian fritters darting for her chingri or fish dishes only.
But my sensibilities have changed now. For the better I think. I had never handled pumpkin blossoms, so I quickly got to work and requested for suggestions around them on Facebook. But looked like India was sleeping, as was my Mother. I relied on what was available next – my common sense.
I cut the stems off each blossom, removed the “stigma” from inside each blossom. I soon realized that the pumpkin blossoms have fine little hairs, which can become a little prickly. But overcoming them is not a big deal.
Give them a good wash in a colander and drain. They are now ready to become deep-fried wonders!
Ingredients for Kumro Phool Bhaja or Pumpkin Blossom Fritters/Tempura are:
6 pumpkin blossoms
Quarter cup besan/gram flour
1 tablespoon rice flour
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Pinch of baking powder
Half teaspoon turmeric
Oil for deep frying (Mustard works well, but you can use vegetable or Canola)
Make a batter with the besan, rice flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, turmeric and salt.
Heat oil in a wok.
Listen to the seductive sound of deep frying while you are on with these blossoms. It does not take more than a couple of minutes on each side to get these fritters/bhaja ready.
These fritters are excellent on their own or served with a Bengali meal. It goes well with rice and daal.