Ultimate Piyaju Recipe: Crispy Bangladeshi Fritters for Ramadan

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Diving into the heart of traditional Bangladeshi cuisine, we’re thrilled to share a beloved classic with you: the piyaju. These lentil fritters, bursting with flavors and textures, are not just food; they’re a piece of cultural heritage, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s when families gather around the iftar table, eagerly waiting to break their fast with these crispy delights.

Making piyaju at home brings more than just tantalizing tastes to your kitchen; it’s about creating memories. Whether it’s your first attempt or you’re looking to perfect this recipe, we’re here to guide you through each step. With a few simple ingredients and our tips, you’ll be serving up these savory snacks in no time, ready to impress everyone at the table. Let’s embark on this culinary journey together, shall we?

Ingredients for Piyaju

Diving into the world of traditional Bangladeshi cuisine, we’re here to guide you through making your own delicious piyaju at home. Gather these simple yet flavorful ingredients and let’s embark on a culinary adventure together.

Lentils and Spices

To start, we’ll need the base of our piyaju:

  • 1 cup of red lentils, soaked for 4 hours or overnight, then drained
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • Salt, to taste

Herbs and Additional Flavors

To elevate our piyaju, we incorporate a mix of fresh herbs and additional flavors:

  • A handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (this helps to add lightness to the piyaju)

Essential Kitchen Tools

Ensuring you have the right tools can make the cooking process smoother and more enjoyable. Here are the must-have kitchen tools to create perfect piyaju fritters.

Mixing Bowls

A set of mixing bowls is indispensable. You’ll need a large bowl for soaking the lentils and several others for mixing the lentil batter and spices. Opt for bowls with enough room to comfortably mix ingredients without spilling.

Colander or Strainer

To drain the soaked lentils, a colander or strainer is essential. This ensures that your lentils are well-drained to prevent a watery batter, which is key to achieving the desired consistency for your fritters.

Food Processor or Blender

For creating the perfect lentil paste, a food processor or blender is key. This tool will help you achieve a smooth batter, which is crucial for the texture of piyaju. A good blender can also be used for making a fine paste of the ginger and garlic if you prefer a smoother blend of these flavors in your fritters.

Frying Pan or Deep Fryer

Piyaju are deep-fried to golden perfection. Hence, a heavy-bottomed frying pan or a deep fryer is essential for consistent, even cooking. Ensure it’s large enough to fry multiple fritters at once without crowding them, for an evenly cooked, crispy outcome.

Slotted Spoon

A slotted spoon will be your best friend when frying piyaju. It allows you to safely lower the fritters into hot oil and remove them once done, while draining excess oil in the process. Opt for a metal spoon that can withstand high temperatures without melting or warping.

Paper Towels

To drain excess oil from your freshly fried piyaju, having a stack of paper towels at hand is very useful. Spread them out on a plate and let the fritters rest upon them to soak up any extra oil, ensuring your piyaju are not overly greasy.

Prep Work

Gearing up for the perfect piyaju starts with some simple but crucial prep work. Let’s dive into the essentials to set the stage for delicious lentil fritters.

Soaking the Lentils

First off, grab 1 cup of red lentils. Rinse them under cold running water until the water runs clear, ensuring any dust or debris is washed away. Now, find a large bowl and immerse the lentils in about 3 cups of water. This soaking process is key—it softens the lentils, making them easier to blend into a smooth batter later on. Let them soak for at least 4 hours, though we find that leaving them overnight yields the best texture for our piyaju. The lentils will swell and soften, which is exactly what we’re aiming for.

Preparing Herbs and Spices

While the lentils are soaking, it’s the perfect time to get our herbs and spices ready. You’ll need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A piece of ginger, about an inch long
  • 1 green chili (adjust based on your heat preference)
  • 1 large onion
  • Fresh coriander leaves, a handful
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • Salt to taste

Peel the garlic and ginger, and finely chop them along with the green chili and onion. The coriander leaves can be roughly chopped—no need for perfection here as they’re going to be blended into the batter. Combining these herbs and spices will give our piyaju that aromatic, mouth-watering flavor profile that’s hard to resist. Keep these prepped ingredients aside until the lentils are fully soaked and ready to be blended into the batter. This prep work ensures a seamless transition to creating our piyaju batter, bringing us one step closer to enjoying these crisp, flavorful lentil fritters.

Batter Preparation

Now that we’ve soaked our red lentils and prepped our aromatics, it’s time to dive into the heart of piyaju making — the batter preparation. This step is crucial in achieving the perfect consistency and flavor that will define our fritters.

Mixing the Ingredients

To begin, drain the soaked red lentils thoroughly, ensuring no excess water remains. We’ll then transfer these lentils to a food processor. Add in the finely chopped garlic, ginger, green chili, and onion along with the fresh coriander. To this mix, we’ll also add our ground spices — turmeric, cumin, and coriander powder. For a little lift that makes our piyaju wonderfully light and crispy, a teaspoon of baking powder goes into the mix as well.

Pulse the food processor until the mixture becomes a coarse paste. It’s important not to over-process; we are looking for texture, not a smooth puree. The bits of lentil and herb will add delightful bursts of flavor and texture in every bite of our piyaju.

Once the pulsing is done, we’ll transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Here, we’ll add salt to taste and give everything a good stir. It’s a joy to see all the components coming together, each ingredient contributing its unique flavor to create something truly special.

Resting the Batter

After thoroughly mixing, it’s time for the batter to rest. Letting it sit for about 15-20 minutes does wonders. This resting period allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, enhancing the overall taste of our piyaju. Moreover, it gives the lentil particles time to absorb moisture from the other ingredients, making our batter easier to handle when frying.

While the batter rests, we can use this time to clean up a bit and prep our frying station. Gathering our frying tools, lining a plate with paper towels for the cooked piyaju, and setting our cooking oil to heat up can all be done now. Our batter will be ready to transform into golden, crispy fritters shortly.

Frying the Piyaju

We’re now at the exciting part of our journey towards making delicious piyaju – the frying. Let’s dive into the steps that will take our batter from a simple mixture to crispy, golden delights.

Heating the Oil

Before we begin shaping our piyaju, it’s vital to get our oil to the perfect temperature for frying. Use a deep, heavy-bottomed pan and pour in enough oil to submerge the fritters fully. We recommend using a neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil for the best results. Heat the oil over medium heat, and to test if it’s ready, drop a small amount of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and comes to the surface, our oil is perfectly heated. The ideal temperature for frying piyaju is about 350°F (177°C). If you have a cooking thermometer, now is a great time to use it to check the oil’s temperature.

Shaping and Frying

With our oil heated, we’re ready to shape our piyaju. Wet your hands with a little water to prevent the batter from sticking to your fingers. Take a tablespoon of batter for each piyaju, shape it into a small patty, and gently slide it into the hot oil. Be cautious to avoid splashes.

Fry the piyaju in batches, without crowding the pan, to ensure they cook evenly and get that lovely golden-brown crust. Each batch should take about 3-4 minutes per side to achieve the perfect crispness and color. Use a slotted spoon to flip them halfway through frying.

As they finish cooking, remove the piyaju from the oil and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels to remove any excess oil. This step ensures our piyaju remain crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Remember, the oil should always be hot but not smoking; if the piyaju cooks too quickly or the oil smokes, reduce the heat slightly. Maintaining the right temperature is crucial for achieving the perfect texture and preventing the piyaju from absorbing too much oil.

Following these steps, we’re now close to enjoying our crispy, flavorful piyaju, a beloved snack that’s sure to delight anyone who tries it.

Serving Suggestions

Once you’ve mastered the art of frying piyaju to achieve that irresistible crispy texture, it’s time to think about how to serve them. Piyaju are versatile and can be paired with a variety of accompaniments, enhancing their flavors and textures.

Accompaniments

Piyaju are traditionally enjoyed with a range of sides that complement their savory and slightly spicy profile. Here’s what we recommend to elevate your piyaju experience:

  • Tamarind Chutney: A sweet and tangy tamarind chutney balances the savory notes of the piyaju, adding a delightful contrast.
  • Mint Yogurt Sauce: For a refreshing side, mix yogurt with mint, garlic, and a bit of lemon. This creamy sauce cools the palate, making each bite of piyaju even more enjoyable.
  • Green Salad: A simple salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce with a light dressing can add a crisp and fresh element to your piyaju platter.
  • Hot Tea: In Bangladesh, piyaju are often served with hot tea, especially during Ramadan. The warmth and bitterness of the tea provide a comforting contrast to the spicy and crispy fritters.

Presentation Tips

Serving piyaju in an appealing manner not only enhances the eating experience but also celebrates the rich tradition behind the dish. Here are our best tips for presenting piyaju:

  • Use a Platter: Arrange the piyaju on a large platter rather than stacking them. This prevents them from becoming soggy and keeps the crust crispy.
  • Garnish: Add color and freshness to your presentation with garnishes like fresh cilantro, sliced red onions, or lemon wedges. These garnishes add a burst of flavor and make the dish visually appealing.
  • Serve Accompaniments in Separate Bowls: Present the chutney, sauce, or salad in small, separate bowls around the platter. This allows guests to customize their plate and engage with the variety of flavors on offer.
  • Layer with Banana Leaves: For a traditional touch, line the serving platter with banana leaves before arranging the piyaju. This not only looks beautiful but also imparts a subtle aroma to the fritters.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Preparing piyaju can be a delightful journey, especially when you’re planning ahead or considering how to keep those leftovers as tasty as when they were freshly made. Let’s delve into effectively making piyaju ahead of time and storing any leftovers with ease.

How to Make Ahead

When it comes to making piyaju ahead of a gathering or for the convenience of Ramadan preparations, the batter is your starting point. You can prepare the batter a day in advance, allowing the flavors to meld together beautifully in the refrigerator. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Prepare the Batter: Follow the recipe steps to mix your piyaju batter, incorporating lentils, spices, and herbs as instructed.
  2. Cover and Chill: Transfer the batter to an airtight container. If you prefer, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the batter to prevent a skin from forming.
  3. Refrigerate: Store the batter in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. This not only saves time but can also enhance the flavors, giving them more depth.

Before frying your piyaju, let the batter sit at room temperature for about 15 to 30 minutes. This ensures that they cook evenly and attain that desired crispy texture.

Storing Leftover Piyaju

If you find yourself with leftover piyaju – a rare but possible scenario – they can be stored properly to retain their crispiness for another day. Here’s our go-to method:

  1. Cool Completely: Allow leftover piyaju to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. This prevents them from becoming soggy.
  2. Prepare for Storage: Place the cooled piyaju in a single layer on a plate or a tray, not touching, to avoid them sticking together.
  3. Wrap and Freeze: Once they are all placed, wrap the plate or tray with plastic wrap tightly and then transfer the wrapped piyaju into a freezer-safe bag or an airtight container.
  4. Freeze: Freeze the piyaju for up to 3 months.

When you’re ready to enjoy your stored piyaju, there’s no need to thaw them. Simply remove as many as you want from the freezer and reheat them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until hot and crispy again. This method helps restore the piyaju to its original glory, making them just as enjoyable as when they were freshly fried.

Conclusion

We’ve walked through the delightful journey of making piyaju, a staple in Bangladeshi cuisine that’s not just food but a celebration. From the careful preparation to the joy of sharing these crispy fritters with loved ones, especially during Ramadan, it’s a tradition that warms the heart. We’ve shared our best tips to ensure you get that perfect golden-brown crust every time and how to keep them crispy long after they’ve left the frying pan. Whether you’re preparing them ahead of time or serving them fresh with a cup of hot tea, we hope our guide helps you create memorable moments around the table. Here’s to making and enjoying piyaju, not just during Ramadan but whenever the craving hits!

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