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Perfect time for some pakoras

I am a great succour for pakoras, bhajiyas, bhajjis, whatever you choose to call it. Easy to make, I am ready to fry some at the drop of a hat this season. Only need good company to enjoy these. Kande bhajiyas, which is typically a Maharashtrian regional snack, are a bit different yet equally delicious. One does not make a batter like pakoras, but onions are sliced finely and salted. When the onion starts sweating, besan is added, mixed well, seasoned as per the choice and fried crisp two times to get that crispy effect. Pakoras are more North Indian. In the south, they are called bhajjis.
Even in London people enjoy these, although the less spicy ones. Fritters, they call them and have innovative fillings. Spinach and brie and mozzarella are the ones I have sampled. Some even make exotic ones like zucchini and courgette pakoras.
After all pakoras are nothing but slices of potatoes, onions, spinach, dipped in gram flour (besan) and deep-fried. What further enhances their taste, are the accompanying chutneys or sauces. Green mint chutney or a tomato ketchup pair well.
In Kolkata, Bengalis love their begun bhaja or beguni made with brinjal or aubergine slices deep-fried in mustard oil. The oil lends it a typical flavour and makes all the difference. In fact, they have it during a meal, apart from the usual tea time snack. They also serve kumro phool or pumpkin flower pakoras that are one of its kind. Here one can also come across dal pakoras with a fiery red chutney on the streets.
Every region has its versions of pakoras. Punjabis love their gobi ka pakoras made with cauliflower or palak aka spinach pakoras. I actually sampled peas and lotus-stem pakoras for the first time ever in Srinagar and mirchi pakoras in Jaipur. Absolutely unique and delectable.
Let your imagination run riot when it comes to pakora fillings. Paneer, babycorn and cauliflower pakoras. What about non-vegetarian pakoras? Yes. Try crispy murg bhajiya, prawn pakoras and egg pakoras. The options are endless. One just has to have an adventurous palate. One can add turmeric, red chilli powder, cumin, ajwain, chopped green chillies, chilli flakes, to the besan, to add to the taste. Another way to add piquancy to your pakoras is by changing flours instead of the usual besan. Rice flour, corn flour are sometimes added to enhance the texture of the batter. The batter has to be of a perfect consistency to get tasty pakoras.
I have even tasted fruits as pakora fillings – pineapple, litchis, raw bananas and citrus fruits, apart from vegetables and meats. Truly innovative and I marvelled the way those were fried and yet had the flavours intact.
The thrill of eating pakoras from road side vendors in the rains is unparalleled. But this may not be advisable always owing to health reasons. Hygiene could be an issue. Hotels and restaurants have chai and pakora festivals galore. I remember enjoying pakoras and chai at the Bay View Lounge at The Grand Hyatt Goa one monsoons. A memorable experience better still, make some at home and relish them without any guilt.
Fancy pakoras and those made with exotic vegetables are delicious no doubt. But I still prefer the simple potato or onion pakoras made at home. Try this recipe when there is the next downpour.
Ingredients: 3 to 4 potatoes cut into thin slices
Onions, brinjal, cauliflower or any other veggies may be used
1 cup besan
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon carom seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon chaat masala
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
Water as required
500 ml oil for frying
Make a smooth batter using all the above ingredients.
Dip potato slices in the batter and deep fry in hot oil till golden brown.
Place on a brown paper to drain off excess oil. Pat dry and serve with chutney or tomato sauce.

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