Onion Pakoda (South Indian style Pakoras)
By DK on Dec 18, 2013
You are cold with really chilled toes. Its dark winter evening and all you probably want to do is take a nice warm blanket, possibly even light up the fireplace, switch on a mushy movie and curl up with your loved ones on the sofa. You think about dinner which will probably be Pizza ("now where the heck did I keep that coupon?"). But its still some time away and now you are really hungry for an evening snack. Something spicy, something hot and something definitely crunchy. Now what is that which would bring you that memorable and comforting memory of back home without actually having to put in a lot of effort? Think , think and think some more.
Does Onion Pakoda ring a bell? Does it transport you back to mom's kitchen? Did that imaginary aroma strike your nostril cord? Well, the above happened to me and it literally forced me to move my backside to make me some. It helps that this is easy without much effort. You should have most of the ingredients to make a Pakoda/pakora and even if you don't - trust me, improvisations are welcome. There are as many varieties of pakoras as there are families in India. Every region boasts its own version (and each family within will add its own palatable element).
Given that I was traveling down my memory lane, this was one I had to make. I have made very subtle changes to my mom's recipe but the end result will not give away my adaptation. The ingredients reflect South Indian cooking and flavors. You can adapt according to your taste and preferences. Its crispy and crunchy. That fried onion pieces here and there ? Ah- bliss!. Feel the winter chills leaving you. May be its the warmth from the hot spicy pakodas, or the heat from your stove from deep frying, may be even the fervency of bygone memories. Does it matter as long as it does what it does ? ;)
Mom's recipe adapted slightly
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 15 min
Serves: 2 people
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 people as an appetizer
- 1/4 cup Besan (Chickpea flour), see Tips
- 3/4 cup Brown Rice Flour (or Rice flour)
- 1/2 tsp Chilli Powder, or to taste - see Tips
- 1 large Onion
- 1/2 tsp Salt, or to taste
- 1 tbsp Ghee/Oil, see Tips
- Few Sprigs of Curry leaves, torn
- Optional but recommended
- Pinch of Asafoetida (optional)
- Pinch of Baking Soda
- 1 tbsp Cashews
Tips1. Chilli Powder: I love adding heat but given that my family doesn't, I usually avoid them. But in case of entertaining for adding that color, I opt for Sweet Paprika which gives wonderful spiced look without adding heat to these pakoras.
2. Ghee/Oil: Ghee provides it additional crispiness along with rich flavor. But if you are Vegan and/or avoiding it for personal reasons, simply add the equivalent amount of oil. I use the hot oil that I am using to deep fry instead of ghee.
3. Besan (chickpea flour) : Many recipes suggest proportion of Besan that's more than Rice flour. But my mom uses more rice flour than besan hence its crispier. But you can do the proportion the other way around (3/4:1/4 ::Besan:Rice flour) or even equal proportion. The taste will not change but the textures will differ albeit slightly.
If using Cashews, chop the nuts into small pieces and soak it in 1-2 tbsp warm milk. You can also use just warm water instead of milk. If crunchy cashews arent a problem, skip this step and add it to the batter right away.
Chop the onion into small pieces. The northern version has it sliced thinly but for the southern version, we opt to do it this way.
Take the onions in a bowl and sprinkle salt over it. You can add more salt according to your taste. We are low on salt as well and this is perfect for us.
Add the Chilli powder (Please refer my tip 1 ) along with curry leaves. Set this aside while you finish the remaining prep. This resting allows the salt to bring out moisture from the onions.
Sift the dry ingredients together. For this recipe, I have used all the ingredients I mention under "Optional" section. So I have the asafoetida and the baking soda in here as well. I have used Brown Rice flour, but you can use regular rice flour instead.
Combine it well.
Add the Ghee or Oil. Please refer my tip 2.
Combine it with your fingers - sort of like a South Indian way of making pastry :).
Now add the onion mixture along with drained cashews.
The water from the onion should help to bring the dough together and you would probably need just few tbsp of water.
Just add enough water to bind it into a dough.
The consistency of the dough should be that you can pinch of some amount and clump together.
Heat up your deep fryer until the oil is medium-hot. Pinch little amount of batter into the oil.
Fry them up - takes some time in medium heat.
but when browned and fried right, they are addictive. If your pakoras are crispy and brown on the outside but taste little doughy on the inside, it means you oil is too hot. The outisde has cooked faster than the insides. If your pakoras taste oily/soaked up on oil, then its too low.
Drain any oil in paper towels. You will find that when made right, your pakoras are crispy, crunchy and leave no oil marks in your paper towel.
I forgot to mention, while you were making these, don't forget to get some nice tea / coffee started on the side. If you ask me, all you need is warm masala tea, cold/overcast sky and a great company to make the best accompaniment to these hot pakoras.
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