You know that spring of joy when you look out the window and see rain? It’s hard to make sense of it. It’s almost visceral. Rain means happiness, that everything’s going to be alright, that this too will pass, that good things will happen. Whoever said “rainy is gloomy” watched too many Wimbledon matches. It’s like the rounded R’s that people mouth when they return from the US. It’s what we think we need to say. It’s not what we feel deep inside.
Rain always, always means happy things. We’ve got it down to a well-worn formula in life and in cinema. Rain means traffic, so we can be late. Rain means cheery rain songs on radio & hot crispy snacks in the canteen. Rain means cancelled classes and school holidays. In cinema rain means heroine introduction, rain means a happy dance, rain means romance, rain means an important twist or the climax. These are the clichés that we love and cherish.
For me rain means “Oho Megam” song from “Mouna Raagam” or “Vaan Megham” from “Punnagai Mannan”. Only those two and nothing else. My mind seems stuck in the late 80s. And only Ilayaraja songs will do. That’s just how it is. I am an 80’s child.
Rain also means a big plate of piping hot, sinus-opening, throat-scorching Milagai bajji.
I love the classic Milagai bajji – the entire chilli, seeds and all, dunked in bajji batter and fried to golden brown perfection. My nose may start running and I may appear to be weeping. But don’t take the plate away from me. It’s the kind of dare-devil things I like to do.
I long wanted to try a few other variants of the milagai bajji. One was a potato stuffed bajji that I thought might be a milder, just as tasty version for less adventurous souls. In this one, I make a slit and scrape out the seeds from within the chilli and stuff with spiced potatoes.
The third version is a mini milagai bajji bomb. If wolfing down an entire chilli seems forbidding, you can start with these mini milagai bajji bites. I cut up the chilli into little roundels and dunk in bajji batter and fry. These are like the bijli vedi (the little cigarette like single-shot deepavali cracker) – small and cute but still explosive.
Last Saturday, I woke up to a cool, drizzly, cloudy Chennai morning. I knew what I had to do. I strode to the kitchen and fried up milagai bajji, 3 different ways and served that for breakfast.
Let me also help you with a few bajji pairings. You might want to make a sharp ginger tea or cardamom tea to go with the classic milagai bajji. The coriander chutney is a great dip for this bajji. For the potato stuffed milagai bajji, tomato sauce is splendid. The mini milagai bajji bites are fun to just pop into the mouth as is. I imagine they’ll make a great side dish for sarakku (booze) parties too.
Don’t wait for the rains to make these bajjis. You can eat them anytime. Draw the curtain and play your favourite rain song if you want to replicate the experience. It’ll work just as well.
Let me know your favourite rain song and which bajji you like best! I’d love to hear.
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