Please meet the most addictive food of all time…onion pakoras. They are crunchy, spice-rich, delicate, and hearty all at the same time. When you get to eat them fresh and crisp, straight out of bubbling oil, and dipped into an aggressively sweet-sour tamarind chutney, they are pretty much unsurpassed.
They’re like next-level onion rings. So good.
India has one of the most vibrant street food cultures of the world. You can rest assured that this won’t be the last Indian recipe to grace the pages of Street Food Monday.
There is such a rich cultural heritage, and food heritage, in India. It’s a place I’ve been fascinated by for a long time. If you want to dream about distant lands, and get a taste of what India might be like for a traveler, I very much recommend Michael Palin’s Himalaya, or for something a little sillier, this YouTube series, The Rickshaw Run.
Or, of course, The Darjeeling Limited (one of my favourite movies). This movie, more than anything, makes me feel that inexorable pull towards new places, new experiences.
But I often think that some of the most interesting aspects of such physically different places are the similarities. The way that people in what seem like such extraordinary and different places are just living their lives, and going to work and having families.
The one thing that we all have in common, and this, I think, is why Anthony Bourdain’s shows are so popular, is food. Everybody’s gotta eat. And it’s a rare human indeed who doesn’t want to enjoy their food.
Well, one thing I definitely have in common with people on the streets of India is a love of pakoras. These are sometimes known as bhajis or pakodas. What you call them doesn’t matter, though. The only important thing is that you make some. They are seriously, ridiculously delicious, and they happen to be vegan and gluten free. Slice up some onions, mix up a simple batter, and then go to town. You will DEFINITELY not regret it.
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp each cumin, cardamom, and ground ginger
- ½ cup tamarind paste
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup water
- 2 medium brown or yellow onions
- ¾ cup chickpea flour (sometimes known as gram or besan flour)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp nigella seeds
- ¼ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- sliced chilli, to taste (optional)
- Oil, for frying (I used canola)
- To make the chutney, place the oil and spices into a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Once the spices start sizzling, and smell slightly richer, add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Set aside to cool.
- To make the onion pakoras, peel and finely slice the onions into half moons. Place the onions into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Slowly add ½ cup of water, mixing as you go, to get a batter the consistency of very thick greek yoghurt. When everything is mixed together, cover the bowl with a cloth and set aside for about 10 minutes or so - this helps the onion to soften slightly, and helps the fritters hold together more readily.
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan. Place a piece of onion in the pan - when it floats to the surface and sizzles, the oil is ready to go (about 350F/170C).
- Place heaping tablespoons full of the onion mixture into the oil - try and get a good equal ratio of onion to batter - and leave them to cook for about 3 minutes, flipping halfway. They will turn a nice golden brown, and should be cooked all the way through. Cut a fritter in half to test if need be.
- When all the fritters are cooked, pile them on a platter and serve with the room temperature chutney. These are great with a few beers, and some good friends.