Of all the famous and celebrated Indian street food in the world, vegetable pakoras are ranked at the top, along with samosas, chaats — and perhaps dosa and idly, depending on if we’re talking about North Indian street food or South Indian street food. Is there a difference? You better believe it. But where do the two meet?
Conceptually, veg pakoras (or pakodas or bhajji or even veg fritters, depending who you ask) are something found in both North and South India, and the love and lust for them is equal. It’s not a culinary civil war as with the chapati (roti) vs. rice battle of the traditions.
With veg pakoras, the spices vary and the vegetable ingredients certainly vary, but the idea and the appreciation are shared. While we’re on the subject of pakoras: in many places in India you’ll find not just pakora made with all kinds of vegetable bits, but also fun things like deep-fried pakora-battered sandwiches and slices of bread.
In my many trips to India and especially in the year living there, I’ve had the opportunity to eat veg pakoras from hundreds of different places. I actually ate them a lot more eating out than eating at home with families. I will say, some of the street vendors and store fronts have some pretty grubby setups, and I wouldn’t recommend eating the samosa and pakoras from just any train station vendor. But still, there’s almost always a decent enough place to be found. If not… just step into your own kitchen!
This one is my favorite vegetable pakora recipe and the one I come back to the most. (See the variations below for more ideas!) This recipe is great for dinner parties, spicing up a weekend afternoon lunch or brunch, or just make them for yourself. I’m not ashamed to admit I do that kind of stuff all the time.
p.s. If you want to read more about pakoras, check out my guest post A Tribute to Indian Pakoras on Waegook Tom’s travel blog!
Veg Pakoras with Apple-Tamarind Chutney
makes 15-20 pieces / time 45 min
- 2 cups / 100 g fresh spinach chopped
- 1 cup / 1 medium carrot peeled, grated
- 1/2 cup / 1 medium red onion chopped
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 tspn baking powder
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup / 80 – 115 ml cold water
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 tspn coriander seed ground
- 1/2 tspn cumin ground
- 1/2 tspn ajwain
- 1/4 tspn turmeric
- pinch asafoetida
- 1 tspn salt
- oil for deep frying
- In small pan on medium heat, lightly dry roast cumin, coriander, ajwain for 2 min.
- Combine all ingredients (except oil!) in large bowl. Add water last, gradually. Mix well. Add more water or flour if needed. Batter should be moderately thick, slightly runny. Let batter sit for 15 min.
- Heat approx 1.5 in / 4 cm oil in small pot on medium high. Oil is ready when small drop of batter sizzles, surfaces immediately.
- Carefully push a spoonful of pakora batter into hot oil. Fry 5-6 pieces at a time until dark golden brown, turning occasionally, about 4-5 min.
- Remove with slotted spoon, drain, transfer to bowl or plate.
- Repeat until all of pakora batter has been transformed into crispy veg pakoras.
- Garnish with fresh mint, coriander, or parsley. Serve immediately with chutney.
- 1 cup / 1 medium apple finely chopped
- 1/4 tspn coriander seed ground
- 1/4 tspn cumin ground
- 1/4 tspn garam masala
- 1 Tbs tamarind paste
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 tspn salt
- 1 Tbs lemon juice or 1 tspn rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup / 80 ml water
- 1 tspn oil
- Heat oil in a small sauce pan on medium. Lightly fry coriander, cumin, garam masala, 2 min.
- Add water, bring to boil.
- Add apple, tamarind, sugar, spices, salt, lemon juice. Mix well.
- Reduce to low heat. Stirring occasionally, Simmer uncovered until thickened, 20-30 min.
- Allow to cool and thicken 15 min.
Frozen instead of fresh spinach: Use 2/3 cup / 5 oz / 140 g frozen spinach: thaw, drain. Water from spinach can be used for batter. Adjust flour and water for batter consistency accordingly. Other vegetables: experiment with other greens, peas, corn, chopped cauliflower, zucchini, bell pepper, grated potato. Vedic-style: just replace onion with 1/2 cup carrot or other chopped vegetable. Extra crunchy pakoras: Add 2 Tbs rice flour to batter, adjust water if needed. Thicker chutney: Add 1/4 chopped dates or raisins.