This season, I learnt to make shaplar bhyala. I tell Tugga all the time, learning never ends. Be it photography, house work, styling, cooking, baking, whatever we do, we are constantly learning. And even though, this was just some fritter (some would say), I was thrilled by the discovery. Just the look of those cute little rafts made with water lily stems and I was in love with them. Not many in the city have even heard of or tasted shapla. Well, they would be knowing it just as a flower. However, to make recipes out of it, it was something new for us till 2017.
The good part of social media
Had it not been for social media and our obsessive need for sharing whatever we eat, perhaps, this food revolution would not have started. Trending hashtags like #farmtoplate, #localproduce, #golocal, #seasonal and more have taken birth in social media. Shapla or water lily have been consumed in the villages for ages. Not many knew about it. Although, in some homes, during Durga Pujo, Ma Durga is offered shapla’s ambol along with panta bhat on Dashami. However, this year I saw many people cook with shapla and share it on various social media platforms.
Our friend Dolon, one of the veteran bloggers with a unique name – ‘poutpretty’ ,shared pictures of shaplar bhyala on her posts. They caught my eye instantly and I came across a few more posts of the same dish. That same week, I had shapla chingri for my weekend delivery on #fabkitchen by Madhushree. I decided to keep a few stems to make these rafts. Oh! The kids, Ma and everyone else really enjoyed eating them. Hence, it had to go on the blog and on ‘cookwithpikturenama‘.
Prepping Shapla for making Shaplar Bhyala
This is the only tedious part about this dish but follow the steps and you will get the hang of it.
- Cut the flowers and discard them. You can use the petals to make pakodas too.
- Using a knife, peel off the skin of the water lily stems. Peel about 5 to 6 inches of it and then pull the skin off the stem. It’s pretty simple.
- Make sure, there aren’t any fibres or skin left on the stems
- Cut them into 2.5 inches length.
- Wash them under running water thouroughly.
- Drain and shake off any excess water.
- Bring 4 to 5 cut pieces together and using tooth picks, skewer them into small rafts.
The batter is the key
Getting the right batter is the essential to make the perfect crunchy shaplar bhyala. There are various ways to make a batter. You can use rice flour and all purpose flour. Use 2:1 ratio for rice flour- ap flour combination. You can use Bengal gram flour and ap flour combination too. I have used equal quantity of ap flour and Bengal gram flour and a little cornflour for the batter. Soda bi carb is a must in all cases. And then you can flavour the batter with turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt and pepper. I omitted the red chili powder part. The consistency must not be too thick or too thin.
A few other points to make a good shaplar bhyala
You need fresh shapla to make them. Two days old ones have already wilted and don’t have the crunch. The oil for deep frying should be moderately hot. And make one raft and see if the batter works. If not, change the amount of besan or maida in the batter. Sometimes, if the shapla has retained too much water, it might become soggy. And the most important thing is, you have to consume them immedietly. Like any fritter, they become soft after a certain point of time.
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Shaplar Bhyala | Water Lily Stem Fritters
- 2-3 water lily stems
- 4 tbsp Bengal gram flour besan
- 4 tbsp All purpose flour maida
- 2-3 tsp corn flour
- 1/2 tsp nigella seeds
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- salt to taste
- 1 pinch soda bi carb baking soda
- oil for deep frying
- Cut the flowers from the stems and discard them. Peel off the skin from the water lily stems. I have explained the process above, as well as in the youtube video.
- Cut the stems in to 2 to 2.5 inch length. Wash them under running water and then shake off any excess water.
- Bring 4-5 cut pieces of the stems together and using a toothpick, skewer them together into rafts. You will need two toothpick per raft, on two ends.
- Make a batter of the rest of the ingredients except the oil. Use water gradually, so that the consistency of the batter is neither too thin nor too thick.
- Heat oil for deep frying. When the oil is hot, add a tsp of the oil into the batter and give it one whisk.
- Dip the rafts, one by one into the batter, shake off excess batter and then drop into a moderately hot oil. When one side is golden, flip it to cook the other side.
- When both sides are equally golden, taken them out and place on a paper towel.
- Sprinkle some rock salt for extra seasoning and serve hot.