If all you know about East Indian food is papadums and samosas, you're going to love pakoras - East Indian-style fritters. The batter is made from chickpea flour - known as "besan" or "chana flour" in East and West Indian groceries, and "gram" flour in English.
The filling is up to you: diced vegetables of all kinds. Just make sure you use firm vegetables (i.e., stay away from delicates like peas, snow peas, celery, sprouts). I'm not a beer-drinker myself, but as with samosas, word is that pakoras are great with beer, and thus a great party snack. Keep in mind, though, that pakoras are very high in protein. Don't over-indulge.
- Besan/ gram/ chickpea flour (or grind your own from dried chickeas using a coffee/ spice grinder).
- Water to form a batter.
- Salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Crushed red pepper flake (optional).
- 1/2 tsp of mild curry powder or ground cumin. Do not put in too many spices, as they'll tend to ruin the oil.
- Small onion(s), cut in eighths.
- Any combo of potato, eggplant, zuchinni, cauliflower - all cut into large chunks. Keep in mind that potato takes longer to cook than any of the other veggies. So make the potato pieces smaller. I suppose you could also (separately) use large, firm pieces of cheese.
- Place the chickpea flour or ground chickpeas in a mixing bowl.
- Add salt, pepper, chili flake, and curry powder or cumin.
- Now slowly add about 1/4 cup of water at a time, and mix with a fork. When you have a thick batter that isn't runny, add another 1/8 cup of water and mix thoroughly. (Basically, keep in mind that this batter is going into hot oil. So the more watery it is, the more likely you are to be spattered with hot oil. But the batter shouldn't be so thick that it hangs from the veggie pieces in blobs.)
- Add all the diced, raw veggies to the batter and gently mix so that the pieces are all coated.
- If you used your hands, wash them and dry carefully. (As always, be careful around hot oil.)
- Using a deep, heavy cookpot, heat 1-2 inches of cooking oil (canola or vegetable) on high. Test with a tiny drop of batter. It should start cooking immediately, and float fairly soon after. Remove the test piece with a slotted spoon. (If you have a proper food thermometer that is safe to put into hot oil, the temperature should read about 350 F. If the oil is not hot enough, the fritters will absorb oil and become greasy. If the oil is too hot, the outside of the fritters will burn while in the insides will be uncooked. Remember not to fill the oil up to the top of the cookpot, as you'll need room for the fritters. Too many spoons of batter into the oil at the same time not only lowers the oil's temperature, but you run the danger of hot oil overflowing the cookpot, potentially starting a fire.)
- For best results, deep fry heaping tablespoonfuls of batter and veggies as individual "balls". If you don't have a deep fryer, or prefer shallow frying, use about 1/2 inch of cooking oil in a heavy, cast-iron pan. The latter method produces flatter, denser fritters. The former method produces fluffier but crispy bulging spheres.Cook flat fritters on high heat until almost golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip over to cook the other side (about 3 minutes). (Note: These fritters tend to burn sooner in a cast-iron pan, so you may need to reduce cooking time and/or heat slightly.)
- Use a slotted spoon to remove fritters, and move to a plate lined with a double-layer of paper towels (kitchen paper).
- Let cool slightly for 1-3 minutes.
Serve with tamarind dipping sauce, raita (sour cream w/ small-diced cucumber), mango chutney, sriracha hot sauce, plum sauce, or even ketchup.
(c) Copyright 2006-present, Raj Kumar Dash