Pakoras, or crispy vegetable fritters made with chickpea flour, are one of my favorite Indian treats. Let’s be honest–I love anything fried–but the combination of tender-crisp vegetables, fresh chiles, and aromatic spices makes these fried treats particularly addictive. And unlike French fries, they’re fast and easy to make at home! At this time of year, when produce is abundant, and so are last-minute gatherings, that is excellent news. Pakoras make a terrific summer party appetizer, especially given you can mix and match any variety of garden bounty.
And while not a traditional presentation, it’s not hard to imagine that a crispy vegetable fritter would be a fantastic cradle for a poached egg. If you’ve denied yourself the glorious heat (and hangover-healing powers) of Indian-spiced breakfasts, it’s time to jump on board. Move over, huevos rancheros. If I’d had a scoop of chana masala to tie this delightfully hot mess together, I would have been thrilled.
If the idea of frying food in July (almost August) seems insane, don’t forget that you can set a cast-iron pan on a grill and cook outside. I’ve fried walleye, fritters, sopes, and other crispy summer delicacies outdoors with great success. Set your guests down in chairs with glasses of cold wine or beer and have them ready to eat fresh-from-the-fryer treats.
Pakoras (Crispy Vegetable Fritters)
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as brunch
1/2 c. each of match-stick sliced vegetables (choose 3: red onions, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, green beans, spinach, zucchini, etc. for a total of 1 1/2 c.)
2 tsp. minced fresh green chile (to taste)
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
high-heat oil for frying (do not use canola oil; peanut, safflower, sunflower or grapeseed all work well)
Mint Chutney (recipe below)
Heat 1 inch of oil in a deep skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat.
In a medium bowl, combine vegetables, chile, and cilantro. In a small bowl, stir together chickpea flour, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and salt. Add chickpea flour mixture to the bowl of vegetables and toss to coat. Slowly stir water into the bowl, a little at a time, until vegetables are coated with thick batter.
When oil is hot, drop spoonfuls of vegetables into the oil, one or two at a time, and fry until golden brown. (For appetizers, fry smaller spoonfuls. To serve with poached eggs, fry larger spoonfuls and flatten a bit.) Turn and fry until golden all around, then drain on paper towels. Serve hot with mint chutney or curry ketchup.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
2 c. fresh cilantro leaves
1 c. fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced fresh green chile (to taste)
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey (to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
Puree ingredients in a processor or blender. Add a little bit of water if needed to create a dipping sauce consistency. Adjust seasoning (lemon juice, honey, salt).