A few weeks ago, I wanted to use up some corn, so I threw together some pakora batter, lightly spiced it, chopped up some red onion, coriander and corn, and deep fried them… and, it was like, man, crazily delicious! I don’t think I’ve made pakoras for years and it was like re-discovering the best food on the planet. How could I have forgotten that home-made pakoras were so good? Why did I ever stop making them?
There is the whole deep frying issue which I stopped doing at home because it was a hassle and unhealthy, but I’ve kind of gotten over my deep frying phobia after reading Mark Bittman’s article ‘Deep fried and good for you‘ in the New York Times. Bittman debunks the whole fear of fats and claims he deep fries at home about once a month because, in moderation, it’s good for you and deep fried food is really, really delicious, which is why we love it so much. (I should warn you if you want to practice moderation, I suggest you don’t make these pakoras on a rainy day when you’re home alone – you’ll end up eating far more than can be possibly good for you). After reading Bittman’s article, I even investigated getting the perfect stove-top deep fryer but gave up after discovering how expensive they were and decided that my trusty Indian wok (karahi) would still do if I wanted to deep fry anything. This was in late October last year and then we kind of rolled along into summer and I forgot about deep frying until I made these pakoras.
I used to make pakoras quite a bit, particulary for afternoon tea feasts, when I lived in the Blue Mountains. In fact, for three years, when I was president of the Katoomba Community Gardens, we ran a wildly successful fund raising pakora stall at the annual Winter Magic Festival. You really get pretty good at deep frying when you spend a day frying pakoras at a street stall in the middle of the mountains’ winter. If you are nervous about deep frying though, I suggest you read the Mark Bittman article cited above, because he gives lots of great information that will make you lose your fear of frying.
When I make a batter for pakoras, I always mix either rice flour or self-raising flour with the besan flour. This makes the pakora batter much lighter than if you use only besan. Some people add a combination of rice and self-raising flour, which gives you a combination of crunchiness and and fluffiness, but I usually just add whatever I have on hand, which is usually seIf-raising flour. I don’t like to spice the batter too heavily. When I’m making a batter for whole pieces of vegetables, I usually just add some tumeric, chilli powder, salt and poppy seeds (the poppy seeds make the batter gorgeously spotty and nutty). For a pakora with the chopped up vegetables and herbs like these corn and onion ones, I usually just use ajowan seeds (a traditional spice for pakora batter), together with some chilli, salt, tumeric and cumin. But you can experiment with different spices – some people prefer a spicier, heavy batter. I also prefer to stuff the veggies in, which gives you a much more nobbly looking, almost tempura-like looking fritter as you can see from the photos. If you want a smoother looking fried dumpling, you need to add less vegetables to your batter.
You can serve these pakoras with any number of sauces and chutney, from tomato kasundi, to commercial barbecue sauce. I usually just make a minty yoghurt raita to go with my pakoras. This time, however, I made this date and tamarind chutney, which is a traditional accompaniment to pakoras and makes a nice vegan alternative to a yoghurt-based sauce.
Corn, coriander and red onion pakoras
- 1 cup of besan (chickpea flour)
- ¼ cup of self-raising flour or ¼ cup of rice flour and ¼ teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of ajowan seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- ¼ teaspoon tumeric
- ½ to 1 teaspoon chilli powder (to taste)
- salt to taste
- ¾ cup of water
- 2 to 3 cobs of corn
- A small red onion chopped
- 1 handful or half a bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
- Oil for deep frying
- First make your batter – Sift flours together, add spices, then whisk through water until batter is smooth. Leave to rest for at least half an hour.
- Slice down the corn cobs to remove half of the corn kernels, then slice down the kernels to the cob so all your kernels are sliced in half. Mix together the corn kernels, onion and coriander and mix well through the batter.
- Heat your oil for deep frying. I usually test the oil by dipping a piece of onion in it and, if it sizzles nicely, it’s ready to go. Drop about 1½ tablespoons of batter into the pan – be careful not to overcrowd your pan as your oil temperature will drop and you will have soggy pakoras. When you drop the batter into the pan, the pakoras should sink down a little and rise again quite quickly if your oil is hot enough.
- Deep fry pakoras until golden brown, drain and serve hot.
- Pakoras can be reheated in a moderate oven for about five to ten minutes.
Vegan, optionally gluten free.