Bhojan's Fenugreek Fritters
The vegetarian cuisine from the northwestern Indian state of Gujarat is ancient and complex. Madhur Jaffrey has called it the "haute cuisine of vegetarianism." While special occasion foods are more elaborate, staples include stewed spiced vegetables of all kinds, roti, and khichdi, a spiced rice-and-lentil porridge.
But everyday Gujarati snacks are more flashy -- steamed chickpea cakes topped with fried mustard seeds and green chiles, delicate pasta spirals made of gram flour, fried vegetable fritters, and flaky flatbreads stuffed with the bitter green methi, also known as fenugreek.
Bhojan, a new Gujarati vegetarian restaurant on Lexington, focuses on those snacks, chaats, and flatbreads. There's also a sweets shop up front, peddling homemade pedas, ladoos and coconut burfi.
Bhojan makes good use of fenugreek, both in the classic Gujarati flatbreads known as methi thepla, and in these fritters, called methi gota. ("Gota" is the word for "pakora" in Gujarati.)
Fenugreek -- or methi, as it's called in Hindi, Gujarati, and Marathi -- is a plant that produces leaves that are used dried as an herb or fresh as a green, and seeds that are employed as a spice. The greens have a slightly bitter astringency, aromatic and earthy. Bhojan's fritters could perhaps use a more generous dose of the fenugreek itself, but they are extremely tasty nonetheless, with crisp, craggy exteriors and cake-like, fenugreek-laden interiors.
Oddly enough, that famous maple-syrup smell that wafted over New York City in 2005 was discovered to have come from a factory that produces fenugreek seeds.