Today’s harvest from my backyard veggie-patch was quite an assortment of vegetables – I got some zucchini, some baby spinach, tomatoes and some yellow squash. None of the individual vegetables was enough to make a whole dish for the family and so I had to resort to combining a few of them. Then again, given the pickiness/preferences of everyone in the family, it’s sometimes hard to please everyone but the one thing that everyone in the family loves are crispy Indian style fritters or Pakoras as they are called in Hindi. Veggie Pakoras are also very popular as appetizers in Indian restaurants in the US. There was a time when my son would not eat these but once he went to college, he began to crave Indian dishes and sometimes has even been known to frequent an Indian restaurant close to his college where he orders these fritters on a regular basis. I have even served these fritters to his friends who ate Indian food for the first time at our place (so they aren’t quite used to the flavors and spices) and quite universally, they all love these fritters.
There is a huge variety in the kind of fritters you may find across India but the one thing that everyone agrees is that they best kinds are the ones that are crispy. Although all of them use Gram Flour (Besan) as the base for the batter, each region has some trick to getting them crispy (eg in the south they add rice flour to the batter) but I have found that adding a bit of corn starch to the batter makes the fritters very crispy and you can’t detect the taste of corn starch in the fritters. Today I added grated zucchini and spinach to my batter. There are a few ingredients in the recipe that non-Indian readers may not be very familiar with (Besan, dried Fenugreek leaves and Amchoor powder) but believe me, every large or medium sized city in the US has at least one South Asian store and you can find all these ingredients over there quite easily. It will definitely be worth the effort – I promise you that!
1. One medium onion
2. 1 small or ½ large zucchini
3. 3-4 ounces of baby spinach leaves
4. ¾ cup of Besan powder
5. Salt to taste
6. 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
7. 1.5 tablespoons of freshly ground coriander powder
8. A pinch of red pepper flakes
9. 2 teaspoons of Amchoor powder (this is dehydrated green Mango powder available at all South Asian stores)
10. 1.5 tablespoons of Kasuri Methi (dried Fenugreek leaves – also available at South Asian stores)
11. 3 teaspoons of corn starch
12. 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cold water
13. 3 cups of oil for deep frying
1. Peel and finely dice the onion and place it in a large mixing bowl.
2. In the same mixing bowl, add the cumin seeds, red pepper, salt, coriander powder, Amchoor and dried Fenugreek leaves.
3. In a medium sized cooking pot, add the cooking oil and start heating it on medium heat to fry the fritters. Don’t let the oil get too hot (it should be hot but not smoking).
8. Add a little bit of cold water at a time to make a batter. The batter should not be too thick or too runny – a paste like consistency would be good.
9. Add a tablespoon of batter to the hot oil at a time and make dumplings/fritters.
10. Fry only about 7-8 fritters at a time – overcrowding will cool the oil down too much and also the fritters will start to get stuck together.
11. Fry the fritters in batches. Place the fried fritters over dry paper towels to absorb any excess oil. If you fry them in hot oil on high heat, they will not absorb a lot of oil and also they’ll come out crispy.