There are so many kinds of khichuri in Bengali cuisine with specific side dishes. Typically, bhoger khichuri or a bhuni khichuri is accompanied by five kinds of bhaja. We call it panch rokom bhaja or panch rokomer bhaja, meaning 5 kinds of fried vegetables. Having said that, these are not fritters. These are simple vegetable fries and the vegetables vary as per the season.
Panch Rokom Bhaja for any auspicious occasion
It’s not just khichuri, but any auspicious occasion calls for panch rokomer bhaja. Bhaja-bhuji is also an integral part of Bengali food. With every meal, we look forward to some kind of fried food. I have also noticed that there are always three or five kinds of vegetables. Hence for annaprashan (rice eating ceremony for a baby) or ai buro bhat (last meal before getting married) or for the new bride and groom, a Bengali feast always includes five kinds of bhaja.
Incidentally, in 2019, I had carried out a Durga Puja festival at Mustard Restaurant Mumbai. So, as part of the khichuri thala, we had included five kinds of bhaja. We also kept an appetizer option as panch rokomer bhaja. And that was one of their highest selling accompaniments.
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Vegetables commonly used for Bengali bhajar thala
Depending on the season, a variety of combinations of vegetables can be used. Here is a list of vegetables that are commonly used for bhajar thala:
- Pointed Gourd
- Teasel Gourd
- Bitter Gourd
- Dried lentil dumplings (not a vegetable)
There is also a specific cut for each of these vegetables. Potatoes are usually sliced in a round shape. So are brinjals and plantains. When it comes to pumpkin, it is usually rectangular in shape (not a perfect rectangular ). Meanwhile, pointed gourd is halved lengthwise. My mother, however, always keeps the pointed gourd whole and makes a design on the body. You can see it in the image attached to this post. Teasle gourd and bitter gourd are both thinly sliced in round shapes. Again, okra is cut into small one cm length.
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Panch Rokom Bhaja | Bengali Five Fried Vegetable Platter
- 1 large potato
- 1 medium brinjal
- 4 nos pointed gourd
- 2 nos teasel gourd
- 5 inch pumpkin
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Oil for frying
- Peel the potato and cut it into thin slices. They shouldn't be as thin as potato chips but a bit thick, about 2 mm thickness. Keep the slices in a bowl of water.
- Scrape the teasel gourds and cut them into thin slices. Dunk them in water also in a separate bowl and keep them aside.
- Cut the pumpkin piece into thin rectangular slices. These should be three to four mm thickness. Wash them well and set them aside.
- Cut the brinjal into slices. Wash well under running water and then rub salt on the brinjal slices and set aside.
- Finally, scrape the skin of the pointed gourds and then either cut them into half lengthwise. Or you could also cut them into a shape like in the picture.
- Once all the vegetables have been washed well, drain the excess water from the brinjal and rub 1/2 tsp turmeric powder.
- Rub salt and turmeric powder over the pointed gourd too.
- Heat oil in a frying pan, enough for shallow frying. If you want, you can deep fry too. Pointed gourd tastes best when deep-fried.
- One by one, shallow fry the vegetables, keeping them covered over medium to low heat.
- While frying the vegetables, sprinkle salt to taste for faster cooking too.
- Once done, portion and serve with khichuri or whatever else you are planning to give them with.