Kadhi Pakora is a meal I NEVER had at my parents. Never, EVER.
I was told my father really disliked it, so I guess it made sense that it was never really cooked at home. I’ll be honest and say I bought into my fathers dislike for it and imagined I wouldn’t like it either, so I never got curious.
I was introduced to the wonderful world of Kadhi after marriage by my in-laws and it always felt like a bit of a daunting feat – all that slow simmering, frying pakoras, a tadka. Why so many elements? For a vegetarian dish? The meat-lover in me turned her nose up. Nah, not for me. Hard pass. I wouldn’t even try it when I went to visit them, despite my husbands insistence.
Quite a few years passed and I never really felt the desire to cook it. I don’t even remember what prompted me to make it the first time I did (it was probably because we were all out of meat and vegetables).
I sent a message to a cousin of my husbands asking for their recipe (why I asked her specifically, again, I don’t know. There’s a lot of gaps in this story).
I do vividly remember that entire evening though – a few WhatsApp voice messages going to-and-fro.
Me realising after having started I’m short on ingredients and was too invested in it to be able to just drop the Kadhi and cook something else.
An impromptu trip to Tesco Express with a kid and a buggy on a hot day.
I remember panicking because it just wasn’t tasting right 20-30 minutes in and sending frantic voice messages (as you do). I remember being reassured things would be OK and I just have to be patient with it.
I definitely remember being very surprised how the flavours transformed as the cook time went on, and also how everything came together perfectly once the tadka was added. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘Why have I never made this before? This is good.’
But man, what I really remember is my husband trying some later that night, looking at me right in the eyes and proclaiming, ‘This tastes JUST like my family’s Kadhi. JUST like the one my Phupho makes. How did you do this?!‘ –
And I was like, ‘Dude. This IS your family’s Kadhi!’.
On that day, I was truly taken away by how some recipes have that sort of power – to be so distinct, so memorable, so recognisable.
Those recipes are like heirlooms. Do you have a recipe like that in your family? My father’s Chicken Karahi recipe is also an heirloom like that – and this Kadhi recipe is a heirloom from my in-laws.
These are recipes I would like to cherish and honour forever by making them a regular meal in my house. A reminder of the different flavours and influences of where we come from, an ode to our elders and loved ones. I’m not a terribly emotional person, but I am very nostalgic. And whenever I make this Kadhi, I feel an indescribable warmth and connection to my husbands family roots.
My husband also never fails to remind me of how wonderful this recipe is. Every time I make it. And to be honest that’s also a good enough reason to keep making it.
My son also looooves this Kadhi Pakora recipe, like SO much. I have never witnessed him in a food coma until the day he had this. He’s 15 months and let me tell you, witnessing a 15 month baby/toddler thing in a food coma is one of the best things I have experienced since becoming his mama.
Yeah, I have PLENTY of reasons to love this recipe.
What IS Kadhi Pakora?
To answer this question, let’s first answer: what is Kadhi?
Kadhi refers to the yellow sauce of this dish. It’s most predominant ingredients are gram flour and yogurt, but it also includes onions, garlic, ginger and spices. This sauce is cooked for an extended amount of time, usually over 1-1.5hrs.
The Kadhi sauce can contain many different sorts of things in it – this recipe houses beautiful little pakoras, hence the name Kadhi Pakora. It can also house battered fish, various vegetables, even mango – or it can be served just as it is.
The version I am sharing today, as I mentioned earlier, is from my husbands family and it is very much a Punjabi-style recipe.
The pakoras used in the Kadhi sauce are made from a standard gram flour pakora-batter and include onion, potatoes and fresh coriander. The tadka is a simple affair, containing curry leaves, onions, cumin seeds and red/green chillies (red is more traditional, but green works fine too).
What does Kadhi Pakora taste like?
Kadhi Pakora LOOKS so different to the standard brown/red shade of most Pakistani style dishes. I think that is definitely something that put me off ever trying it in my younger years. It was the fear of the unknown.
A proper Kadhi Pakora, when cooked long and slow and with all the right ingredients, tastes:
- Tangy, with a sour kick. Khatta, as we say in Urdu. This khatta-flavour is meant to come from the yogurt, but those of us outside of Pakistani likely do not have the luxury of being able to source out the specific sort of tangy yogurt used for Kadhi. Therefore, my recipe uses lemon juice to add that tang, which you can adjust to your liking.
- Alongside the tang, the sauce is deeply flavoured thanks to the low and slow simmering alongside the turmeric, cumin and coriander powder.
- The pakoras contained in the sauce are soft and light – not dense and soggy!
- The tadka… ahh, the tadka! It brings everything together SO perfectly – infusing prominent, distinct flavours of onion, curry leaves and cumin into the dish. It adds richness to everything, complementing the base flavour of tanginess so well.
How do you make Kadhi Pakora?
To break it down in as easy a manner as possible, Kadhi Pakora consists of 3 different elements:
- The kadhi sauce (made from yogurt and gram flour)
- The pakoras (gram flour fritters made with onion, potato and coriander)
- The tadka (tempering of oil with onions and spices)
I’m going to go through each of these steps in detail here, with pictures and tips.
1. The kadhi sauce
We start by grabbing some onion, ginger and garlic. We’ll put those into a blender alongside a small amount of oil and blend till it’s mostly smooth.
Add this to a deep pot and fry for a few minutes, till everything begins to release a fragrance. Definitely don’t let it get dark.
In that same blender, add yogurt, gram flour and tomato. Blend till completely smooth, then add this to the pot alongside approximately 6-7 cups of water and spices.
Bring this to a very slow simmer, and then allow it to cook over a medium high heat, whisking often (more on why later), for about 1-1.5hrs. Initially it’ll look quite pale and like mango lassi, but the mixture will thicken during this time.
Towards the final 15 minutes, add in lemon juice and continue to cook it.
2. The pakoras
My favourite part 😉
Preheat a deep frying pan or karahi with some oil for deep frying.
In a bowl, whisk together gram flour alongside some spices (again, in the recipe card) and bicarbonate of soda. Add some cold water and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick, gluey but smooth mixture.
Add in chopped onions, fresh coriander and chopped potatoes. Mix through.
By this point, the oil should be ready. Using a tablespoon, spoon in the pakora batter into the hot oil. If the pakora immediately sizzles and floats, the oil is the right temperature.
Fry the pakoras, turning to ensure they brown evenly. Once they have become a medium hue of golden, scoop them out using a slotted spoon and dip them immediately into a bowl of water for a few seconds before popping them into the warm kadhi sauce (if it isn’t warm, warm it up before doing this).
The pakoras will soak in some moisture from the sauce. You’ll need to add some additional water to the pot to make things look more comfortable and fluid. Add a bit at a time, and do NOT stir the pot with a spoon – this may break the pakoras! We don’t want mashed pakoras, noooo! Instead, pick the pot up with both hands and swirl it around when needed. Add as much water as you need to get it to a consistency you like.
Allow the pakoras to simmer on a low heat uncovered in the sauce for 5 or so minutes, just to get the flavours to meld together.
3. The tadka
The tadka is SUCH an essential part of this recipe. If you do a taste-test before this point, you may feel like it just isn’t tasting so good and you may feel a bit hesitant (I definitely did when I made this for the first time). The tadka really helps marry all the flavours together – everything comes together so beautifully after this.
(Need to add here, I couldn’t get any pictures of this entire process – apologies!)
Start by heating some oil over a small pan. Add in sliced onions. Allow these to begin to turn slightly translucent before adding curry leaves. Again, fry for a few moments, then add in cumin seeds and whole chillies (red and/or green). When the onions turn a deep shade of golden brown, pour everything over the kadhi and pakoras. I like adding the fresh coriander to the kadhi before the tadka so the hot oil gets a chance to pour over the coriander too. It will sizzle, so be careful!
Ta-dah, your Kadhi Pakora is ready!
Some helpful Kadhi tips
In no particular order:
- Dipping the pakoras into the water immediately after frying helps soften them up a little – if you’ve ever made Dahi Bhalay, you may recognise this step. You don’t need to do this, it isn’t essential. If you do though, make sure it isn’t for longer than 10-15 seconds otherwise the pakoras may soften up too much and begin to break.
- Instead of stirring the kadhi sauce as it cooks, I like using a whisk to beat it. It helps incorporate air into the sauce and make it more light and fluffy.
- When frying the onions in the tadka, it’s really really important to ensure you keep stirring, don’t fry on a high heat, and brown them evenly. They go from deep golden to black REAL QUICK, so stay hovering around until it just turns a deep golden, and then pour over the Kadhi immediately.
- The tadka is really open to being any kind of flavour you want, so don’t feel like you gotta stick to whatever I’ve included. Some people enjoy a pronounced garlicky flavour – if that’s you, feel free to add some sliced or minced garlic. Fenugreek seeds may also be added if that’s your jam.
- Too much bicarbonate of soda may give you… some gastric trouble. I speak from experience. So please, don’t add extra thinking you’ll up your fluffy pakora game. Please don’t.
- The pakoras will get VERY soft once they sit in the Kadhi sauce for a bit. Particularly so after a few hours/the next day. So be careful when dealing with them! If I need to decant them or move them from pot to serving bowl, I prefer to use a ladle-like spoon instead of a flat spoon or wooden spoon.
Can you freeze Kadhi pakora?
The sauce freezes rather well, however the pakoras do tend to lose their consistency upon freezing. The tadka tastes most potent if added just before serving, therefore I also wouldn’t recommend freezing the sauce with the tadka.
If you’d like to make this a freezer-friendly meal, I’d recommend freezing the sauce only, and then defrosting when needed and adding pakoras and tadka just before serving.
It’s not the most freezer friendly meal in light of all this, however by freezing the sauce you do save A LOT of time.
What do you serve with Kadhi Pakora?
There’s a huge divide on this debate in my household. I firmly believe Kadhi Pakora is made for plain white rice. My husband prefers paratha. I mean, we’ll both eat it with either option but in terms of preference, that’s where we stand. Many people enjoy it with roti too.
In terms of serving it alongside another curry, I really believe Kadhi Pakora is a star that does not need any supporting hands. Serve with your carb of choice and a salad and that is honestly all you need.
Other recipes you may enjoy
For the kadhi sauce
- 1 small onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small chunk of ginger
- 2tbsp oil
- 3.5tbsp/50g gram flour (besan)
- 250g full-fat yogurt
- 1 small tomato
- 1.5tsp salt, or to taste
- 2.5tsp coriander powder
- 2.5tsp cumin powder
- 0.5tsp chilli flakes
- Juice from 1-2 lemons
- 0.5tsp turmeric
For the pakoras
- 180g gram flour (besan)
- 1.5tsp salt, or to taste
- 1tsp red chilli powder
- 1tsp coriander powder
- 1tsp cumin powder
- 0.25tsp turmeric
- pinch of bicarbonate of soda
- 2-3tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 small potato, diced
- Oil, for deep frying
For the tadka
- 1/2 cup neutral tasting oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 20-30 curry leaves
- 1tbsp cumin seeds
- 3-4 red or green chillies, fresh or dry
- (Kadhi sauce) Start by blending the onions, ginger and garlic alongside the oil until smooth (doesn't need to be perfect). Add to a deep pot and fry until it becomes fragrant.
- While the onion mixture is cooking, add the gram flour, yogurt and tomato to the blender and blend till smooth
- Add the gram flour mixture to the pot alongside the kadhi sauce spices and 4 cups of water. Bring to a slow simmer, mixing with a whisk, and then proceed to cook this over a medium heat uncovered for 1.5 hours. Ideally, the longer you cook, the better the flavour, but if you do choose to cook it for longer, add in more water.
- Towards the final 15 minutes of the cook time, when the kadhi sauce has thickened, add the lemon juice in.
- While the kadhi sauce is cooking, you can start on the pakoras. Whisk together the dry ingredients for the pakoras, then add in water slowly, mixing until a thick batter forms. Add the onions, potatoes and coriander.
- In a preheated frying pan, add the pakora batter in one tbsp at a time. Fry these over a medium/high heat, turning to ensure they brown evenly. You'll likely need to do this in 3-4 batches to ensure the pan doesn't overcrowd.
- Once they turn a golden-brown colour, drain them over a slotted spoon, place them in a bowl of water for a few seconds before placing them into the pot containing the kadhi sauce.
- Once the pakoras and kadhi sauce are combined, allow them to simmer together on a low heat uncovered for 5 minutes. You will likely need to add some water as the pakoras will absorb some moisture from the sauce, thickening it - if you do, add some a small amount at a time and swirl the pot by lifting it with your hands to combine everything.
- For the tadka, heat up some oil in a shallow frying pan. Add the sliced onions and fry over a medium-high heat, stirring very often to ensure they brown evenly. Once transluscent, add the curry leaves. Once the onions become golden, add the cumin seeds and chillies. As soon as the onions turn a deep golden colour, pour the oil over the kadhi sauce and pakoras.
- Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately.