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Bheja Fry - Goat Brain Fritters

bheja fry goat brain pakora indian recipe

Shairez has been teaching me a lot about Indian food lately, and one of the dishes he talks about is bheja fry, a popular dish in Mumbai using goats brain. I'm always interested in trying new things, so we got some goat brains from IQBAL Halal Foods, a huge South Asian supermarket in Thorncliffe Park, and tried making bheja fry.

Raw Goat Brains
Preparing brains is much like preparing sweetbreads , which I've served many times in the French restaurants I've worked in. You rinse the brains in cold water for about an hour to eliminate excess blood, then poach in a court bouillon with a few tablespoons of vinegar for about 30 minutes. For bheja fry I used ginger garlic cumin and turmeric in the court bouillon as well as the standard onion, celery, and carrot. Once the brains are poached, let them cool, and pick the excess fatty membranes from around the edges. The brains are now ready to be used for bheja fry or any other brain dish you would like to try.

Although most bheja fry recipes have you stirfry the brains in a masala, and mash them into a scrambled egg-like dish, Shairez likes to dip the brains in a pakora batter and deepfry them into crispy fritters. He says this is an authentic way of eating them on the street in Mumbai, and since I haven't been there (yet), I'm not going to argue.
Pakora Batter Recipe

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp baking power
1 tbsp melted butter
some chopped cilantro
Mix all the dry ingredients and add enough water to create a crepe batter consistency, then mix in the melted butter and cilantro.

If you don't have the ingredients on hand most South Asian stores sell good ready mixes like the Laziza brand.
Coat the brains in the pakora batter and deep fry at 350° until golden brown. We served the bheja fry with pickled red onions and a tomato/chili masala on the side.
Biting into the fritters reveals a very creamy texture and a mild liver like flavour which may be an acquired taste for some. The vinegared onions and chili were a perfect counterpart, but next time I would cut the brains into pieces instead of frying the whole brain, especially if I was serving bheja fry to guests who were not used to the texture of offal.

Bheja fry is also the name of a Bollywood movie from 2007 and takes it's name from the play on words of bheja fry meaning "driving me crazy" or "frying my brain" apparently its quite funny, unlike the sequel Bheja fry2 which coincidentally opened in Toronto this week and has received poor reviews.

Trailer for Bheja Fry 2

bheja fry goat brain pakoras

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Sakura Hanami in Toronto

sakura hanami toronto

Sakura Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms as they bloom in the late spring. These blossoms only last a week or so and large crowds can be found eating and drinking under the trees both day and night. Traditional Japanese foods such as dango and fried chicken are eaten, along with sake and beer and tea. The hanami tradition has been celebrated in Japan for centuries as a contemplative, peaceful activity, but for many people is now an excuse to have an early summer picnic. hana yori dango or "dumplings rather than flowers" is a Japanese saying which reflects the attitude of  people that are more interested in the food and drinks accompanying a hanami party than actually viewing the flowers themselves.

sakura hanami toronto highpark
hana yori dango means "dumplings rather than flowers"
At High Park in Toronto there are over 100 sakura trees that were donated by the ambassador of Japan in 1959 and the hanami tradition has been growing steadily in recent years. In May some friends and I decided to join the celebration and threw our own hanami party.
sakura hanami toronto highpark sake
Besides sake and beer, I brought some maki rolls and Japanese buns filled with BBQ pork, curried beef, tuna, and other savoury fillings from the Japanese bakery Furama Cake and Dessert Garden on Spadina in Chinatown, as well as assorted kim chi, seaweed, and Japanese potato chips at P.A.T Korean market on Bloor. Joel had caught a steel head trout on the weekend and home-smoked it to make a smoked trout, cream cheese avocado roll. Way to go Joel!

sakura hanami toronto highpark sushi
Joel's Smoked Steel head Trout Avocado and Cream Cheese Maki

sushi maki sakura hanami toronto highpark kimchi
Assorted Kim Chi and Seaweed Pickles 

I also bought some cherry brandy to make a special cocktail for the occasion. It's simple and delicious
Sakura Cocktail
1 part cherry brandy
4 parts sake
top with club soda
serve in a wine glass with a cherry garnish

sake sakura toronto highpark

The park was packed that afternoon, but we found good spot under one of the cherry trees and ate, drank and people watched until the sun went down. It was a great time and I plan to do it again next year. For some more photos of the day check out my photoblog

sakura hanami toronto highpark

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