Several months back, I stopped at an Indian restaurant, the Aroma Bar and Grill, on my way home, and ordered a meal. My meal came with pakoras (among other things) on the side. Seriously, those things ranked 10 out of 5, and I’ve been wanting to make these ever since.
Pakoras are made with besan (chickpea flour), and typically contain cauliflower and onion. You can also take a variety of veggies and shred them up, and add them to the flour. Seasonings can vary, and can contain fenugreek (methi) leaves, cilantro, cumin, garam masala, curry leaves. I absolutely love the earthy tastes of methi and of curry leaves! Unfortunately these last two aren’t found in regular supermarkets, but in Connecticut I have a nearby Indian grocery, and I’ve noted you can find both items online these days.
Here is a basic link to what pakoras are, or can be, over at Quora. They are indigenous to northern India, Pakistan, and Nepal. There are different varieties, and using buckwheat flour is also acceptable. It appears they are generally eaten essentially as a snack, with tea, during the monsoon season of winter.
At any rate, apparently they’re intrinsically gluten-free… I did note one recipe that said occasionally these are made with poultry or seafood ingredients, but I’m keeping my explorations of this food item on the vegan side of things, as I want to eat more tasty vegetarian things — and I’m of the firm belief that the tastiest and healthiest vegetarian foods are native to cultures with sizable vegetarian populations.
The oil: Yes, you can use peanut oil, and I have no allergies to peanuts nor do I object to peanut oil when eating out. But I’m not convinced that it is a particularly healthy oil, and so I don’t cook with it at home. I know a few years ago I purchased safflower oil for deep frying — for a vegetarian recipe also in the Asian section of the world that I didn’t get to post at the time but is also in the list of things to make again to share. Safflower oil works fine, too, but has come in for criticism. I admit, I deep fry things so rarely it probably doesn’t matter, but for the sake of this blog, I’m not using either peanut oil or safflower oil here. Avocado oil can be hard to find, but Costco and Bj’s both carry it. Coconut oil is possible, but I don’t want the taste in this dish, and besides some of my friends are allergic.
At any rate, I tried one recipe and found the batter did not adhere the way it had in the aforementioned Indian restaurant, so I’ve checked out another. Here is this one, in form of a You Tube video, but a written recipe is also in the description section for the video.
Vegetable Pakora Recipe, by Hari Ghotra
The restaurant (and the other recipe) used cauliflower. Hari Ghotra uses potatoes and onion. She notes that eggplants (aubergines) or cauliflower are also often used. I really wanted to use cauliflower for this, as this is what I loved about the aforementioned Indian restaurant outing. I’m not crazy about potato-based pakoras. So, I used cauliflower and onion for my vegetable matter.
As mentioned, I used avocado oil for the above reasons. I also unfortunately lacked the chili peppers, but I did have Korean red pepper powder, which should get me in the one ball park. Seasonings, as she notes, should be geared for personal taste buds anyway.
Oh, PS, I am now home from surgery and doing well.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: Each batch about 8-10 minutes. The larger the pan, the larger the batch…
Rest Time: 5 minutes
Serves: Enough for a mid-sized party as appetizers. I got three meals out of this, as lunches.
Leftovers: Yes. Re-heat in oven.
Vegetarian Cauliflower and Onion Pakora Recipe
- 50 grams (2 ounces) besan (chickpea flour), also sold as “gram”.
- 150-200 grams (5.5-7 ounces) Cauliflower, broken up into small chunks.
- 1/2 medium onion, preferably yellow or white, sliced.
- 1 teaspoon garam marsala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- Handful of cilantro (coriander leaves), coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried menthi (fenugreek leaves)
- 3/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon dried chili powder (I used Korean, which may have more of a bang than most)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- water sufficient to make a paste.
- Cooking oil. (I prefer avocado or grape seed oil, but whatever, make it high temperature oil)
Mix everything but the water and oil, together.
Add water gradually, mix, add more as necessary, until you have a moderately thick paste.
Heat the oil in a pan on the cook top. A good medium high is desired, but the oil should not smoke.
Test the temperature by adding a drop of batter to the oil. If it rises to the surface and begins cooking, you are in the ball park.
Add several (the number depending on the surface area of your pan) heaping teaspoon sized dollops of batter to the pan. Somewhere between 1 and 2 teaspoons in size. They should brown slightly before turning them. They’re good anywhere from a golden to a darker brown. (You can indeed make them somewhat larger than I did.)
Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb excess oil. With high frying temperatures, less oil will be absorbed, so keep this in mind.
Serve warm, with an Indian chutney if so desired. They make a great appetizer or snack, and can be re-heated (oven is best, so they retain their moderate level of crispiness) later.