What are Pakoras?
Pakoras are small, savory fried snacks which are a central part of South Asian cuisine. They typically consist of chopped or shredded vegetables, cheese, or poultry coated in a batter made from chickpea flour and then deep-fried. Beyond this basic definition, there are a great many varieties of pakora, and some regions of India and other South Asian countries have their own pakora specialties. While pakoras originated in South Asia, they have gained some popularity in parts of the United States and Europe as well.
Perhaps the unifying feature of all pakoras is their deep-fried coating, made from chickpea flour, which is usually referred to in South Asian cooking as gram flour. This type of flour is made by slow-baking, cooling, and then finely grinding chickpeas. To prepare pakora batter, gram flour is blended with water and, in some cases, seasonings such as cumin and salt. Often, this batter is mixed rapidly for several minutes, resulting in a coating that is light and fluffy.
The fillings used in pakoras vary widely. Occasionally poultry such as chicken is used, but as vegetarianism is widespread in South Asia, vegetables and cheese are perhaps the most popular fillings. Commonly used vegetables include potatoes, onions, cauliflower, tomatoes, and spinach. In many cases these ingredients are used in combination with each other. When preparing pakoras, the chosen fillings are finely chopped or shredded and then mixed with seasonings or chilies.
Once the filling has been prepared, it is tossed with the gram flour batter mixture and then added in spoonfuls to a preheated deep fryer. When each spoonful hits the hot oil, its exterior becomes crisp and golden. Depending on the frying time, its inside may remain crunchy, or may soften slightly.
Some regions of India claim their own pakora specialties. For instance, Rajasthan, a state in India’s northwest, is known for its spicy mirchi bada pakoras, which consist of deep-fried potato-stuffed chilies. Residents of Tamil Nadu, on the country’s southern coast, enjoy pakoras filled with banana.
The popularity of the pakora stretches far beyond South Asia. As South Asian peoples have immigrated to countries such as England, Scotland, and the United States, they have introduced Westerners to the specialties of their native cuisine, and these crispy snacks are commonly found on menus at Indian and fusion restaurants abroad. In the UK, pakoras are even sometimes sold at fast-food restaurants alongside more familiar side dishes, such as French fries.
@pastanaga - Fried food doesn't have to be unhealthy if you make it properly. We have a lovely local curry place that serves pakoras as an appetizer and they are very well cooked and drained, so that they aren't greasy at all. I suspect they are also handmade since they are quite delicious and taste very fresh. I actually want to ask them for their chicken pakora recipe, since it's really one of the best I've ever had.
On the other hand, I've gone to restaurants that served pakoras that were tasteless and very greasy and I suspect that they were quite bad for your health as well.
It's all in the way they treat the food in the kitchen. If you take your time with it and cook it to a good recipe, you won't go too far wrong.
@umbra21 - Chickpeas are actually very good for you as well. I mean, in pakoras you are using a more refined flour and getting a bit of cooking oil along with it, so it's not as healthy as eating plain chickpeas, but I'm sure you're still getting some benefits.
Apparently they are one of the oldest known cultivated plants, which I think is quite cool. If you combine the chickpea flour with a variety of different vegetable fillings, then you will end up with a fairly healthy fried snack. As tasty as chips, but not quite so void of nutrition.
I used to be kind of against chickpeas, because I associated them with bland cooking and thought they were generally just not very nice tasting.
That was until one of my friends convinced me to have some that had been roasted with some spices. They are actually quite delicious.
I'm always looking for new things to cook and I have some gram flour in my cupboard so I think I'll find a pakora recipe and give them a try.
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