Pakora, the delicious tea-time-any-time snack of Pakistan, has become a staple at my house. It’s a crispy, flavorful addition to my recipe collection that I will take with me wherever I go.
There are many variations: I’ve had cabbage and onion with a hint of soy pakora for a Chinese twist; I’ve had onion and spinach bundles, eggplant slices, chicken pieces and even boiled eggs coated with batter and fried for a heavy, fulfilling treat.
Some people I know add an egg or two to the batter mixture, but unless I’m making a big batch, I find it doesn’t need it. I suggest you try it first without it, you can always add it later. It’s a very forgiving recipe, and everyone I know here has her own version.
The main ingredient in pakora is besan, which is a flour made out of chickpeas, and if you have never cooked with it, you should make an effort to find it because it’s delicious. It’s definitely worth a trip to the Asian store. You might also try looking for it in your local health food store, as it is a good vegan ingredient. The flavor of besan is so unique that I believe there is no substitute for it, but regular all-purpose flour can be used to make a potato fritter that is similar to pakora in shape and texture, although not in taste.
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
2 small green chilies, sliced (optional)
1 handful of cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon cilantro seeds (optional)
½ cup besan (also called gram flour)
salt & pepper to taste
¼ teaspoon chili powder (optional)
¼ cup water
oil for frying
Place the potatoes, onions, chilies, cilantro and the seeds (if using) in a medium bowl and toss to combine.
Add the besan, a little at a time, mixing it in well (your hands are best for this).
Add the salt, pepper and the chili powder, if you are using it. Mix again to distribute evenly.
Pour the water using a spoon, little by little, until the flour is no longer powdery, but not too wet.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When the oil ripples, using your hands, take a handful of pakora mixture and gently and carefully place it in the hot oil, making sure your pakora stays together. Your can use a spoon if you prefer, but I find you have less control that way. If your fritter breaks up in the pan, quickly pat it into place before it sets, using a metal spatula or a slotted spoon.
Cook the pakora for a few minutes on one side until golden, then turn it and fry the other side. If the pakora has an irregular shape, move it around to make sure it cooks evenly on all sides.
Taste your pakora once it is cool, and make adjustments to your seasoning if you think you need it. Continue frying the rest of the batter until you’re done.
Pakora are served with ketchup, or sometimes with yogurt and mint chutney, but I like mine with chilmol, a tomato and onion relish from Honduras, where I grew up.
3 medium plum tomatoes
1 medium onion
salt & pepper to taste
squirt of lemon juice
Chop the tomatoes and the onion into small pieces. Place in a bowl and toss to combine.
Add the salt and pepper and toss. Pour a bit of lemon juice.
Check the seasoning and adjust.
You can add finely sliced cabbage, chopped cilantro, or cucumber pieces if you like. They all go well together for a cool, refreshing taste.