Thundering skies, black clouds bullying the sun rays and birds chirping away to their nests in wake of forthcoming rain. Then a sudden downpour with a heavenly breeze, tempting one to eat something spicy with masala tea or the grandma’s ginger tea. World over the temptation is the same, only the spicy dishes vary. In Japan its called tempuras, in America its onion rings, in Europe its fritters and in India we have pakoras. All are the same but made differently with the local produce. I have always advocated and supported the fact that we all adapt international flavours with our local flavors and invent some unique dish.
Whenever time allows, I love to sit in the verandah, sip hot tea and bite into spicy pakoras while enjoying the downpour. I urge all of you to take out time this monsoon and try this. However, with our urban lifestyle and busy schedules, we seem to ignore such small pleasures.
Uhhh! lets get the focus back to our pakoras. Recently, I was invited to Frankfurt by a group of die hard foodies called Toxos—a closed Facebook group—to celebrate good food with international chefs over an evening of food, wine and music. I wondered what could I make which would not only be Indian, but also something that the foreign audience could identify with it. I thought of our very own pakoras which are similar to their fritters, lamb biryani and rose Phirni Brule (a twist of taste with our desi phirni and fiirangi creme brule fusion) Oh! Don’t worry the recipe is to follow but before that some theory is always better, it allows you to enjoy the dish more.
Pakoras are made by taking one or two ingredients such as onion, eggplant, cottage cheese, spinach, cauliflower, green chilli or even chicken. They are then dipped in the batter of gram flour and deep fried in oil. A version of pakora made with wheat flour, salt, and tiny bits of potato or onion (optional) is called Noon Bariya, typically found in eastern Uttar Pradesh in India. Only onion pakoras made this way are called bhajiya while in the west it is called onion rings and is often served with sour cream. I certainly enjoy my bhajiya or onion rings with hung curd dip flavoured with garlic juice. In south India potato baji is sliced potato wrapped in batter and deep fried. In south states, pakora is a mix of finely cut onions, green chillies and spices mixed in gram flour. This is rolled into small balls or sprinkled straight into hot oil and fried. These pakoras are very crisp on the outside and medium soft to crisp inside. There is also a variety that is softer overall, usually termed Medhu Pakoras in restaurants, that is made of any other ingredients, such as potatoes.
Among the Muslim community of South Africa pakoras are known as dhaltjies, and are usually eaten as an appetizer. Pakoras are popular across Pakistan, they generally resemble to those found in India. They are sometimes served in a yoghurt based curry (salan), as a main dish—Pakora Kari—rather than as separate snacks. In this case the pakoras are generally doughier and are made of chopped potato, onion and chilli mixed into the batter, instead of individual fried vegetable slices. Pakoras are also encountered in Afghan cuisine. The word pakora is derived from the Sanskrit word pakavata (pakava means cooked and data means small lump.)
Although Pakoras go with all seasons but with Indian psyche they compliment most with monsoons that is why I call them monsoon temptations.
Rose Phirni Brule
● 1/2 liltre milk
● 1 1/2 tbsp rice powder
● 1/2 tsp rose essence
● 1/2 cup sugar
● 2 tbsp chopped almonds for garnish
● 2 tbsp sugar for making brule
In a heavy bottomed pan heat milk, add sugar and slowly stir in rice powder stirring continuously till the mixture thickens. Now add the rose essence. Remove from fire pour in a serving dish. Sprinkle sugar on the phirni and torch it with low flame to just melt the sugar without browning. Garnish with chopped almonds.
Refrigerate till chilled and serve cold.
● 1/2 cup cauliflower-florets
● 1/2 cup aubergine-rounds
● 1/2 cup onions-sliced salt to taste
● Ajwain-1 tsp
● Gram flour-2 1/2 tbsp
● Semolina (suji)- 1 tbsp
● Water-enough to bind
● Oil for deep frying
In a pan mix all the raw vegetables. Moisten the vegetables with a few drops of water and sprinkle the gram flour and semolina and mix well. Add some water if required to bind the vegetables with the flour. Add in the salt and ajwain. In a heavy bottomed pan heat oil. When oil is very hot add the coated vegetables. Turning in the pan till golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle with chat masala , serve hot with hung curd dip.