Pakoras Galore: Let The Ramadan Feast Begin

The month of fasting (and over-eating) is finally upon us, and what makes this Ramadan 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 Ramadan have nothing in common save for a piping hot (garma-garam) plate of Pakoras. This Pakistani staple dish is a must-have for Iftar and any dastar-khuwan is incomplete without a variation of this. The popularity of Pakoras lies not only in their unique flavor profile, but also in their affordability.

Pakoras (or Bhajiyas) are savory snacks deep-fried to a crisp and served with a dash of chaat masala with ketchup, tamarind chutney or chili sauce. Cultures across the world have their own adaptation of Pakoras. The English have Fritters, the Chinese, Dumplings, and the Japanese, Tempuras, but nothing beats the satisfaction of a crunchy Pakora at the time of Iftar. This notoriously popular snack is light on the taste, heavy on the waist, especially if it is deep-fried in ghee, so no matter how tempting it may look, do not, I REPEAT, 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. As with any street food, it’s better to keep the hygiene factor in mind, what with all the parasitic and bacterial diseases out and about. So let me show you how we can make not one, but FIVE different variations of this phenomenal snack within the confines of your own kitchens:

(left) Chinese Pakoras and (right) No-Fuss Pakoras

No-Fuss (a.k.a. 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 yogurt 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 required
  • salt to taste
  • oil/ghee for frying

Method:

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

Chinese (a.k.a. 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)
  • ¼ chicken breast (cut in small cubes), marinated with the following for 2-3 hours:
    • 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
  • 6-7 tbsp corn flour
  • 2-3 tbsp gram flour (baisan)
  • 3-4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp chili sauce
  • salt to taste

Method:

  1. 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
  2. Heat oil in a wok, take a teaspoonful of the mixture and drop it into the wok
  3. Deep fry on medium heat till slightly dark brown; note that these will take a slightly longer time to cook as you need to ensure the chicken is tender

Julienne Pakoras

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 drizzle 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:

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

(left) Moong Dal Pakoras and (right) Chili Pakoras

Moong Dal Pakoras (a.k.a. Moongwadas): 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:

  1. 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)
  2. Once the beans are blended, add all the vegetables and spices to them and mix well
  3. Take a teaspoonful of the mixture in your hands and flatten it into the shape of a patty
  4. Drop it into a pre-heated wok with oil and deep fry on medium heat till golden brown

Chili (a.k.a. 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 Ramadan. This 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:

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

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 Ramadan. Never in my life have I ever heard anyone losing weight during Ramadan. Let’s see what the Qura’an has to say about this:

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint.” (Al-Baqarah, 183)

As the above ayat indicates, Ramadan 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.

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5 thoughts on “Pakoras Galore: Let The Ramadan Feast Begin

    • Hello Esti,

      Appreciate you liking my post. Do try and let me know how they turned out.

      Cheers,
      Yousuf

      p.s. You might be able to find ‘Shaan chaat masala’ at some Indian/Pakistani grocery store.

  1. Pingback: My Blog » Pakoras galore: Let the Ramazan feast begin!

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