Saturday, May 17, 2014

Chai with Pakora and a few drops of rain!!

It is Friday again and it is raining outside, possibly the most boring drizzle ever! Not the relentless downpour that I totally love and long for. And oh yes, it is cold. Just when the weather was warming up and I was thinking of folding up my winter coats and exciting hoodies into the deepest corner of my closet, the temperature drops down to 7 °C (i.e. 44 °F). You gotta love the Windy City!

Is there anything that I can do to fight the dampening spirit of this weather? Yes, you guessed it right! A heavenly cup of Adrak Chai with some very delightful crispy pakoras. My mom loves to call them pokori or fuloris and so do I :) This combo of evening snack often makes me nostalgic. Ask any Indian, you will find this to be among their top 10 favorite snacks of all time. Also, I will rather spend some lovely quiet time in my kitchen than to get out of my PJs, dress up and go out to have fun! 

Just like every other cult favorite food, every household in India has their own version of pakoras. My mom used to prepare it in less oil so it was more healthy, but that is not necessarily my preference. I like the little ones from roadside tea vendors; I vividly remember the yummy freshly-fried "10 for 1 Rs" pakoras, under the Ganeshguri over bridge a decade ago! Because of the questionable hygiene associated with street foods, it was kind of forbidden in my home. May be that's what made it so irresistible. It took me a few years (yes, few years, please don't laugh at me :) ) to get the consistency of the batter right to achieve the fluffiness and crunchiness that I was after!

Let's discuss the recipe

Ingredients: Besan (Gram Flour), Onion, Baking Soda, Green Chilies, Cilantro/Coriander, Salt, Cumin Powder, Red Chili Powder.

  • I prefer to use red onions for that extra sharp flavor they have. Chop them into very thin mid-sized pieces. I believe thin pieces are extremely important as they help in bringing additional crunchiness.
  • Chop the chilies into very small pieces.
  • Mix few spoons of besan with the onion and chili. For me, onions are definitely more pronounced in the batter than the besan :) 
  • Add water. I like the consistency to be thick but not as heavy as a paste. If the batter looks runny, it still needs some more besan
  • Add cumin powder, salt, red chili powder and a bit of baking soda. Baking soda helps in making it more soft and fluffy. Mix everything well.
  • Add the chopped coriander just before you are ready to fry. 
  • Heat oil in a pan (in medium heat). Another important tip here is to use a circular deep cooking pot commonly known as Karahi in Assam. You will need less oil than using a flat bottomed pan. 
  • Place a spoonful (or less) into the hot oil separately for each pakora. Depending on the size of your pan, you can add multiple pakoras per batch. I like them to be small in size so I always use an itty-bitty amount. Sometimes, I like to use my hand in place of spoon.
  • You may need to flip the pakoras once in between. When you feel they are fried and turns orange red/golden outside, they are done.
  • Placing them in a paper towel before serving helps in soaking up the extra oil. 
  • Make an excellent cup of আদা দিয়া চাহ (Ginger tea).
  • Sit in the balcony and savor the fresh bits of awesomeness! Or, invite some friends over, watch a crappy movie while sipping on your "Kadak chai" :)

Sometimes, when I feel the extra need of eating healthy, I bake the pakoras in the oven. I tweak my recipe and make the batter more thicker. Spray some oil on a aluminum foil on the baking tray, place a spoonful amount per pakora and bake around 380-400 °F. That is my version of "No oil pakora". It definitely lacks the delicious crispiness of a deep-fried one but sometimes we need to show a little respect to our resolution of staying healthy! 

I know, if you have the slightest love for food, you all already know how to make pakoras, Nonetheless, I had fun sharing my recipe with you all and I hope it was helpful :)

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