Photo by Sania Saeed

In my mind, pakoras are synonymous with daawats (transliterated as “feast,” but used as “big food parties”). Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, pakoras are one of my favourite salty treats because they are a lazy cook’s dream. It takes less than 5 minutes to put the ingredients together, and you can shallow fry them.

My go-to pakora is the classic – onion and spinach. This could be customized in a variety of ways, but sweet onions pair best with the taste of chickpea flour and the spinach adds a bitter undertone that evens the flavours out.

A close second are tandoori chicken pakoras which give us the gift of bite-sized chicken pieces in a tangy, spicy, tandoori masala coating. Can’t be beat. (Okay, maybe tandoori fish ones are also really good, but it’s hard to choose!)

Anyway, enough of my love letter to fried goods. Here’s how you make ’em:

Photo by Sania Saeed

Pakoras for the Lazy Home Cook:

  • What corners did I cut?
    • I shallow fry them – it will have basically the same effect, and save you the hurdle of grabbing them out of hot oil!
    • I buy premade tandoori masala and add it into the chickpea flour batter. This is probably blasphemous, but gives me the result I want.

Time: approx. 30 min.

Tools:

  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • Frying pan
  • Slotted spoon and spatula to take them out

Ingredients:

  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 cups chickpea flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced very finely
  • 1 clove ginger, julienned
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced in ½ inch pieces
  • 250g to 300g. Spinach (the ratio of spinach:onion is up to you), cut in strips
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Tandoori seasoning
  • Salt
  • Chilli powder
  • Garlic powder
Photo by Sania Saeed

Recipe:

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of chickpea flour, the onion, spinach, 1 tbsp. of chilli powder, about 3-4 tbsp. of salt, and 2 tbsp of garlic powder. Make sure the veggies become totally coated in the flour and spice mixture.

In the other bowl, mix 2 cups of chickpea flour, the diced chicken, garlic, ginger, tandoori seasoning, 3-4 tbsp. of salt, and a pinch of garlic powder. Make sure the chicken becomes totally coated in the flour and spice mixture.

Next, add water. This step is critical! Add 1.5 cups of water and gauge how the batter looks. Depending on the portions of the other ingredients, this may not be enough. You are essentially looking for runny batter (think: hollandaise texture), but not so thin that it won’t stick to the veggies or chicken (think: milk).

Heat up a pan on medium-high and add in a few tablespoons of oil. Let it heat up – I usually test this by adding a tiny bit of batter in while it heats up, and once it starts bubbling around the batter, it’s ready for a full pakora to go in. Grab two spoons and cradle the batter in between them – then drop this into the oil in an oval shape. It won’t keep its shape, but they’re known for being imperfect.

Once they are brown and crispy, they’re ready to be flipped. This will be very obvious as the top layer will be yellowish and the bottom brown. Once they’re crispy to your liking, take them out and toss with a pinch of salt.

Serve the chicken with ginger or tamarind chutney. Serve the veggie ones with a generous pinch of chaat masala, and a sweet sauce. Dare I say it, I used to eat them with ketchup growing up!

Notes:

  • Both of these combos pair well with tamarind chutney, hot honey, sriracha, and a variety of other dips and sauces.
  • Pakoras freeze well; a batch could be frozen for up to a month.

Sania is a Pakistani freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, B.C. She is passionate about seasoning her food, the Oxford comma, and creating painfully curated Spotify playlists.She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Lit with a focus in race and post-colonial studies, and wants to fill the gaps where she doesn’t see herself represented in writing and media.

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