Today, I’m sharing with you the recipe of one of my most favourite snacks, the epitome of South Asian street food, the very definition of delicious: Pakoras.
I have a bit of a love affair going on with Pakoras.
The thing I try (and fail) to avoid.
I pretend like I don’t need them on my Iftar plate.
I tell myself I’m going to be healthier and not fry these goodies.
I repress my craving for these tasty fritters because they’re oily and no good for me.
I act like I don’t even like them.
I love to hate these little fellas, don’t I?
But the truth it, few Pakistani households are without Pakoras during Ramadan. It’s just a part of the culture! My husband cannot even begin to get to grips with the idea of an Iftar (fast-breaking meal) table without Pakoras!
No matter how many affirmations we make, no matter how many times we tell ourselves, regardless of how health articles we read about the dangers of eating fried food – these buddies are an Iftar companion that I doubt will be going anywhere anytime soon.
My Mother used to always tell others ‘Nahi, hum tu Ramadan me fry nahi karte (No, We don’t fry anything in Ramadan)’. Her words would give me some comfort – yes, this Ramadan I won’t be eating those Pakoras because THEY WON’T BE HERE! HURRAH! I’d secretly wish they would be, but I’d also know it’s good they won’t. It’s safer that way, believe me.
But then, at Iftar time there’d be a batch of freshly fried and perfectly crisp Pakoras awaiting us. ‘Bacho ke lie banana parta hai (I have to make them for the kids)’. Those delectable little fritters would sneakily end up on each and every one of our plates and before you’d know it, my Mother would be frying another batch.
What are Pakoras?
Pakoras, also known as bhajis, are deep fried fritters made using a batter of gram (chickpea) flour. The batter is usually spiced with an array of Asian spices such as turmeric, cumin, coriander etc and can be used to coat anything from potatoes to chicken. This recipe I’m sharing is for vegetable Pakoras, which contain a mix of onions, spinach, potatoes and aubergine – my favourite combination.
How to ensure your Pakora batter is perfect
As with most fritters, ensuring the batter is whipped to perfection is an incredibly important part of the equation. Here are some tips to help make your pakora batter:
- Giving the batter a shake through a sifter will ensure the flour does not clump and that your batter will be airier (and therefore fry crispier)
- Additionally, when you’re whisking the flour and water together, making sure you’re whisking things vigorously will help incorporate more air into the batter (again, more air =crispier)
- The less water you add the crisper the batter will be
- You may have heard of random totkas (tips) floating around between aunts about adding various things to the batter including yogurt and egg. Those additions do help make the pakora interior more pillow-y. I don’t have an exact amount of these to put into the notes, but half an egg or a tbsp of yogurt will definitely not do any harm if you feel adventurous.
One bird, two stones
A pakora batter is timeless, versatile and can pretty much be used for ANYTHING. With this particular recipe, the truth is – there isn’t a set recipe. The spices remain the same, but I mix up the vegetables depending on what I have to hand. Generally, I go a bit heavy on the leafy greens, like in this recipe, always using spinach and coriander but occasionally adding fresh fenugreek or mustard leaves. Aubergines, potatoes and onions are also a must, but my husband likes cabbage too. I’ve seen recipes around the internet using peas, carrots, broccoli and other vegetables too. Feel free to mess around with the vegetables and add/omit what you fancy.
Also, you can totally use this batter to coat a variety of other food items including:
- bite-sized chicken pieces
- bite-sized fish pieces
- hard boiled eggs, halved or quartered
- paneer, feta or halloumi cheese
- discs of potato, onion or aubergine
- fat green chillis
- whole spinach leaves
- pretty much anything edible. For reals, I’ve pakora-fried a sandwich before. True story.
How do you serve pakoras?
Pakoras are the star of show on my iftar table. You can pair them with a coriander and mint raita, plum chutney and even humble old ketchup. They also go well sprinkled with some chaat masala.
Pakoras are also a popular treat on a rainy day – there seems to some sort of a culture association between rain and fried goods. Pakoras, samosas, kachoris, spring rolls – they’re all-well loved on a wet day alongside a hot cup of freshly made Desi tea.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – my husband once told me his dad used to enjoy Pakoras with chutney with roti as a complete meal, and since then that has been my emergency go-to dinner on days when I haven’t had the time to cook something. It’s absolutely delicious!
This year in Ramadan, as always, I’m adamant Pakoras won’t be a regular show, but an occasional Iftar treat. I’m going to try my utmost best to not give into the temptation and pile my plate sky-high with those mouth-wateringly divine treats. I’m going to dodge the plate of Pakoras with unwavering determination and reach for the healthier, lighter option.
And as always, I’m very sure I won’t succeed.
Enjoy, with lots of love.x