Why you should care
These doughy puffs of deliciousness will make you the hippest, global-est person at your holiday party.
From our family to yours: OZY staff share their favorite time-honored holiday recipes to keep you warm, stuffed and slightly buzzed all season.
Western holidays can be perplexing for fresh-on-the-ground immigrants. After all, Americans do weird things this time of year, like eating dead gobbling birds with stuffing (stuffing that is not actually stuffing said fowl) at Thanksgiving and watching videos of hairy green monsters at Christmas — and presents. So many presents.
My parents never did the Christmas thing with us. My mom’s an urgent-care doctor, and kids always seem to find impressively inventive ways to injure themselves come the holidays. Rudolph noses can be quite the choking hazards. But the one concession we always made to American celebrations in the early years was eating unhealthy food. We didn’t do pies or cakes or Christmas cookies, and we certainly remained staunch vegetarians. We did pakoras.
Pakoras are fried pockets of pure, mouth-watering fat. A bit like tempura, they’re fritters made by, essentially, dipping an item of choice in batter and kicking it up in hot oil. Despite the somewhat simple procedure, as a domestically challenged Millennial, I still cannot make them, so I recommend finding an Indian mother or auntie to step in. Whatever it is they do, they are the secret ingredient in this dish.
You have some choices about types of pakoras (which are pronounced more like the r is a d, as in pako-DA; in the south of India, they might be known as bajjis instead). In my house, it was usually a classic potato pakora, but we also would switch it up with onions and even paneer — the Indian cubed cottage cheese that looks a bit like tofu and is far better than it sounds. The adventurous might try green chilies, but be sure to have some raita (yogurt) nearby for the inevitable fire that will need quelling. If you’re non-veg, you can play with meat here, but don’t tell my mom I suggested that. Eat your pakoras with chutneys, usually tamarind, mint or coriander.
(Warning: My Indian family members tend to avoid “proportions,” which are for “Americans”)
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek powder
- Chili powder
- Cumin seeds (roasted)
- Garam masala
- Vegetable oil
- Veggie options: 1 large onion, cut coarsely, or 1–2 peeled, uncooked potatoes, sliced thinly in circles, or 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets.
- Combine the chickpea flour, baking soda, fenugreek powder, salt, chili powder, cumin seeds and garam masala. Mix with warm water to make a very thick batter.
- Heat oil, and when sizzling, dip the vegetable pieces in the batter and fry on medium heat. The batter should be thick enough to coat the piece well and not run.
- Fry, turn the pakora, and fry again, until golden brown.
- Place on absorbent paper towel to avoid an oily end product.
- Serve hot with tamarind sauce or Maggi Tomato Chili Sauce.