Some birthdays are a 21 tequila shot salute.
No matter what size or flavor they come in, all birthdays are special. They are the one time during the year you can pamper yourself without guilt. They are the one day you get to do anything you want. It’s your day. You can go crazy.
On my birthday, I got crazy alright.
So crazy, that for my order-in birthday dinner from India’s Oven, instead of ordering the usual samosas, we ordered *dramatic pause* onion bhaji.
Did you think I could be so wild and crazy?!?!
I have no idea what kind of insane spontaneity came over me. I will say though, that I wasn’t sure about it at first. I had tried some sort of bhaji before somewhere, perhaps it was Annapurna, but I hadn’t been impressed. The fritters were too dough-y, too heavy, too greasy, and whatever vegetable they had been in their natural lifetime, was completely unidentifiable.
But this is India’s Oven! They’ve never disappointed me before! Besides, surely not every place will serve chopped gamma-ray alien produce in greasy fried dough as onion bhaji. In that nano-moment whilst on the phone with the restaurant and a take-out menu in my hand, I threw all caution to the wind. The words “onion bhaji” sputtered out of my mouth and before I could change my mind, the other end confirmed the order then..click.
There was no turning back now.
I made that crazy onion bhaji bed and now I was going to have to lie in. I dramatically tossed the takeout menu across the table as if I had just spent $450,000 on a boat docked in Bermuda. Oh well!
During that 45 minute wait, I didn’t think too much about what I had done. Sometimes it’s just better for me, otherwise I start to do that thing where I analyze every possible negative consequence in full, gory detail that extrapolates out ten years into the future so that by the time I'm forty-something in my head, the onion bhaji will have been the root cause of my becoming a bitter old maid living in this same aparmtent by myself except for two cats to which I am allergic.
After that happens, it takes along time for me to ever do anything remotely out of the ordinary again. Sweatpants and pho it is!
The order arrived and I tore into the brown paper bag as I always do – like a woman possessed by some flesh-starved demon. I found the little Styrofoam box and I knew what was inside. Everything else on our order was in their familiar containers. The Styrofoam box is what India’s Oven uses send samosas. But this time, I knew they weren’t samosas. I was almost afraid to open the box for fear of disappointment, but I did.
The onion bhaji were incredible. They are the Indian version of an onion ring, but fried together in small bunches of paper-thin slices rather than in individual thick-cut rings. The batter is made from chick-pea flour, spices, and some food-grade version of crack. I was high, and if not for kindergarten where I was forced to learn to share, I would have snatched up all the onion bhaji with my bare hands and shoved them into my mouth like a monkey in withdrawal. I think I forced myself to use a fork. But I can't be sure.
I’m not even sure if India’s Oven’s were good onion bhaji in the grand scheme of deep-fried deliciousness from the great sub-continent of India. Whether they were good or not to a trained palate, they tasted like culinary perfection to me. The coating was airy crisp only on the thinnest, outermost part, then transformed into slightly chewier batter just inside, before finally giving way to the tangle of sweet, soft onions at the core. It’s hard to improve on perfection, but in the bhajis’ case, a swift dip in my personal sacrilegious concoction of raita mixed with sriracha took them to the level of divine.
It's not often, if at all, that I let that reckless little devil in me come out, but I am so glad I let myself get all wild and crazy on my birthday.
But I still had to have my saag paneer, tandoori chicken, and garlic naan.
I might have been crazy, but I’m not stupid.
** a year ago today, we feasted on korean barbecue all longest-day long. **