Pakoras galore: Let the Ramazan feast begin!

Published: July 30, 2012
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This Pakistani staple dish is a must-have as any iftar is incomplete without a variation of this. PHOTO: YOUSUF BAWANY

This Pakistani staple dish is a must-have as any iftar is incomplete without a variation of this. PHOTO: YOUSUF BAWANY This Pakistani staple dish is a must-have as any iftar is incomplete without a variation of this. PHOTO: YOUSUF BAWANY

The month of fasting is finally upon us, and what makes this Ramazan more special is the fact that it is coinciding with monsoon; the clouds in Karachi ready to pour any moment now (Please, God, please?). Monsoon and Ramazan have nothing in common save for a piping garam garam plate of pakoras.

This Pakistani staple dish is a must-have as any Iftar is incomplete without a variation of this. The popularity of pakoras lies not only in their unique flavour profile, but also in their affordability.

Pakoras are savoury snacks deep-fried to a crisp and served with a dash of chaat masala with ketchup, tamarind chutney or chili sauce. The English have fritters, the Chinese have dumplings, and the Japanese have tempuras, but nothing beats the satisfaction of a crunchy pakora at the time of Iftar. This notoriously popular snack is light on the taste and heavy on the waist, so no matter how tempting it may look, do not give into the temptation of finishing up the entire platter in one go.

Pakoras, and most of its other variations, are made using gram flour (baisan), but some adaptations include corn flour, pearl millet (bajra) flour and all-purpose flour. Also featured in the pakora is a mixture of edibles including potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, onions, cottage cheese, unripe mangoes, eggplant, and green chilies. These can be found in all shapes and sizes across the country with practically every street vendor peddling them.

So let me tell you how we can make not one, but five different variations of this phenomenal snack within the confines of your own kitchen.

No-fuss (aka jhat-pat) pakoras:

These pakoras (popularly known as bhajiyas) require very little time and effort and can be made in a jiffy, ergo the name jhat-pat. Ideally, these are served with a side of yoghurt mixed with some red chili powder and salt.

Ingredients

  • 1 potato (thinly sliced) – you can also use sliced onions, whole green chilies, sliced eggplant, or spinach leaves
  • 1 cup gram flour (baisan)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Water as per the requirement
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil/ghee for frying

Method

  • Mix gram flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl with some water to form a thick batter (to the consistency of condensed milk).
  • Heat oil in a wok and dip each slice of potato in the gram batter and drop it into the wok.
  • Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown and then serve.

Chinese (aka Oriental) pakoras:

These pakoras are slightly different from the rest in taste as well as texture, mainly because the only spices and sauces used are traditional to Chinese cooking. You can also substitute chicken in the recipe with shrimps. Since it is originally my wife’s recipe, I dedicate this section of the write-up to her.

Ingredients

  • 1 tomato (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 onions (coarsely chopped)
  • 2-3 green chilies (finely chopped)
  • 1 potato (coarsely chopped)
  • 6-7 tbsp corn flour
  • 2-3 tbsp gram flour (baisan)
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp chili sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ chicken breast (cut in small cubes), marinated for 2-3 hours:

Ingredients to marinate the chicken

  • ¼ tsp ajino moto (MSG – optional)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce
  • ½ tsp crushed red chilies
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Once the chicken is marinated, add all the vegetables, corn flour, gram flour, soy sauce, chili sauce and salt to the chicken and mix well.
  • Heat oil in a wok, take a teaspoon full of the mixture and drop it into the wok.
  • Deep fry on medium heat till the pakoras turn slightly dark brown and then serve.
  • Note that these will take slightly longer to cook as you need to ensure the chicken is tender.

Julienne pakoras:

These are essentially similar to the pakoras you get at the street vendors’, the only difference being the cutting style of the vegetables. Using a julienne cut for the vegetables ensures that the pakoras come out extra crunchy and extremely delicious, instead of just turning into a doughy mush. Do not forget to sprinkle some chaat masala over them before serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium potato (julienne cut)
  • 1 medium onion (julienne cut)
  • 10-12 spinach leaves (thinly sliced)
  • 2 green chilies (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • ½ tsp crushed red chilies
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (dhania kay beej)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp gram flour (baisan)
  • Water as required
  • Oil/ghee for frying

Method

  • Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well; add enough water so that the resultant mixture becomes sticky.
  • Heat oil in a wok, take a tablespoon full of the mixture and drop it into the wok.
  • Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown and then serve.

Moong daal (aka moongwadas) pakoras:

These are slightly unconventional pakoras in the sense that they do not use gram flour. Instead, these are made entirely using mung beans (moong dal). This is one recipe that was carried over from India to Pakistan and has been in the family for many generations.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups mung beans with skin (chilkay waali moong dal)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 pinch turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tomato (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 green chilies (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds (freshly crushed)
  • Oil/ghee for frying

Method

  • Soak the mung beans overnight and remove all the green skin before grinding it in a blender with the garlic cloves (use the wet mill attachment so as to eliminate the use of water).
  • Once the beans are blended, add all the vegetables and spices to it and mix well.
  • Take a teaspoonful of the mixture in your hands and flatten it into the shape of a patty.
  • Drop it into a pre-heated wok with oil and deep fry on medium heat till golden brown and then serve.

Chili (aka mirch) pakoras:

These pakoras use the chili as a container for an assortment of spices and are then deep fried with a crisp gram flour coating on top. The type of chili used is entirely up to how much heat you can take during Ramazan. This particular recipe uses banana peppers.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 banana peppers
  • ½ tbsp cumin (zeera)
  • ½ tbsp coriander seeds (dhania kay beej)
  • 1 tbsp chaat masala
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 cup gram flour (baisan)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Water as required
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil/ghee for frying

Method

  • In a frying pan, add the cumin and coriander seeds, and toast them till they are crispy.
  • Take a mortar and pestle and coarsely crush the cumin and coriander seeds.
  • Now add the chaat masala and the lemon juice to the crushed seeds and form a thick spicy paste.
  • Take each banana pepper, make a vertical slit using a knife, and stuff the spicy paste into it.
  • Mix gram flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl with some water to form a thick batter (to the consistency of condensed milk).
  • Heat oil in a wok, dip each pepper into the gram batter and drop it into the wok.
  • Deep fry on medium heat till golden brown and serve.

I hope you enjoy these pakoras at home but before I sign off, I’d like to add my two bits about the essence of Ramazan. Never in my life have I ever heard anyone losing weight during Ramazan.

Ramazan is not just about giving up food and drink for a prescribed amount of time; it’s about moderation, preservation and self-control. Moreover, it teaches us the ever important lesson of sharing what Allah has bestowed upon us with those who cannot afford it. So don’t forget to share with those in need, even if it’s some money, clothes, or something as insignificant as a platter of pakoras.

This post originally appeared here.    

Read more by Yousuf here, or follow him on Twitter @YousufBawany

Yousuf Bawany

Yousuf Bawany

A writer who enjoys to cook foods from across the world. He blogs at yousufbawany.wordpress.com. He tweets @YousufBawany (twitter.com/YousufBawany)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.