A long month of fasting has almost reached the half-way stage and it just seems like yesterday when I began my Ramadan series blogs. When writing about foods that are popular in Ramadan, no blog series would have been complete without this recipe. Known as pakora in Pakistan, bhaji in India, dhaltjies in South Africa and tempura/fritters around the world, these little snacks make every iftar table complete. These batter-fried vegetables are best served piping hot with a chutney on the side. Easy to make and full of flavor, pakoras are popular during iftar and the monsoon season, when people sit on their terraces, enjoying the cool breeze with hot pakoras and a steaming cup of tea.
Finding its roots in the Subcontinent, the word pakora itself has been derived from the Sanskrit term “pakvavata”, literally meaning cooked small lump. Once you have mastered the batter, you can use any vegetable, meat or even cheese of your choice to make these snacks. The most popular ingredients used are; onions, potatoes, spinach, eggplant and cauliflower. Fresh goat’s cheese is used in making paneer pakoras and chicken is also favored among some foodies. Being a spice addict, my all time favorite are mirchi pakoras, literally translating to spicy cooked small lump. The fiery taste of the green chilli is complemented by the sweet and sour tamarind paste and the crunchy batter. Expect an explosion in your mouth with each bite.
- 8 large green chillies
- 1/4 cup tamarind paste
- 2 tsp chaat masala
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 cup gram flour
- 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp white cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 2-3 cups of oil
- In a bowl mix together the gram flour, red chilli powder, salt, white cumin seeds and baking powder together with a fork
- Add water slowly till the mixture turns into a paste. Make sure the batter is not very thick or very thin either. It should be in the form of a paste. Set aside
- For the tamarind filling, add the tamarind paste to a bowl and stir in the chaat masala and lemon juice
- Score the green chillies through the middle, resembling a pocket. Make sure not to slice the chillies completely, leaving the ends intact.
- For a less spicy variation, scoop out the seeds from inside the chillies. For those who can stomach spices, leave the seeds intact
- Fill the green chillies with the tamarind mixture, making sure not to over stuff the chillies
- Heat the oil in a wok till sizzling. Drop a small amount of batter in the oil to see whether it is at the correct temperature. If the batter starts to sizzle, your oil is ready
- Coat the stuffed green chillies in the batter generously and deep fry in the sizzling oil
- As soon as the pakoras turn into a deep brown color, remove from the wok and place on a kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil. Keep a close eye on the pakoras to prevent them from burning
- Serve the pakoras hot
This batter can be used for all types of pakoras and bhajis. Slice the onions into discs and dip them in the batter to make onion bhajis or Asian onion rings. Similarly you can thinly cut potatoes and cover in this batter to create aloo pakoras. Another variation that is popular in Pakistan, is to roughly chop onions, green chillies and coriander, mix them into the batter and deep fry. When serving your guests, make an assortment of pakoras and serve up with a cooling mint chutney, the recipe for which can be found in my earlier blog about “Sev Puri”. Enjoy the fasting month of Ramadan and welcome the rainy season by cooking up a “pakora” storm in the kitchen.