Ahhh the Pakistani pakora!
Because it doesn’t get any more Pakistani than pakoras, my friends. With the rainy season upon us, the most Pakistani thing to do is eat pakoras and drink chai. It’s practically our patriotic duty. In commemoration of our beloved country’s 70th anniversary of Independence, I’d like to share with you a recipe near and dear to my heart: my Pakistani pakora recipe.
These are the best Pakoras (aka potato fritters) you will ever eat. Yup, I am making that claim because they are, quite simply, the best I’ve ever had in the twin cities, either home or professionally made. They are so good, that I’m actually a wee bit hesitant to share this recipe, because that means relinquishing the title of best pakora maker. However, I am making this sacrifice for the greater good. The world needs more of these awesome Pakistani pakoras. There are way too many bland, tasteless pakoras out there. NO MORE. I say.
The art of the Pakistani Pakora
So, for the uninitiated in pakora eating, here is what defines the IDEAL Pakistani pakora. First, the texture. The perfect pakora is slightly puffy but crispy. None of this soft, puffy, over inflated deals you get when you put in too much baking soda. Nuh uh. But, mind you, it’s also NOT flat. This is a pakora, not a besan chip. There MUST be a difference between the two.
It has to be spicy, and a bit tart, the perfect blend of the two, but without taking it overboard—be nice to your tummies please.
The color has to be the perfect golden brown. Not YELLOW and undercooked and not BROWN and overcooked. This is the part where your frying technique will really come into play. My recipe can only take you so far, young grasshopper. It is up to you to master the art of timing the frying so that it is just right. If you remove the pakoras too early OR too late, the flavor will NOT reach its optimal potential. I’ll try to break it down for you in the notes as best as I can, but this will vary based on where you live, the kind of oil you’re using, etc. Just keep practicing, it is TOTALLY worth it.
And now I’m distracted…what was I saying?
Pakistani Pakora: Behind the Scenes
So, funny story about this recipe. I had originally intended on posting this for Ramadan. (Yes, even though I had you all on the Ramadan Weight Loss Diet Plan.) The thing is, pakoras are a non-negotiable for iftar in our home, so I was planning on sharing this recipe with you guys as a “cheat-day” option, except for one problem:
It seemed I had forgotten the recipe.
Only, this was impossible, because making these Pakistani pakoras comes as naturally as breathing to me. When you make something every day for a month and depend on it as your fallback solution when guests show up unexpectedly for tea, you get to the point where you could make it with your eyes closed. Okay, well, not with your eyes CLOSED, closed but…you get my point.
But when I tried to make the recipe by measuring out the ingredients properly (instead of just eyeballing the measurement like I normally do), I couldn’t achieve the result I’ve come to expect from this recipe.
Okay, that’s a nice way of saying, they were TERRIBLE.
Hard as rocks and so salty, it could make you cry.
Okay, I thought, I haven’t made these in a while, let me try making them without measuring, just to get back into the groove of pakora making. So the next day, I made them the way I normally did.
And they were still terrible.
I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. My pakoras were always so good! My family LOVED them, I’d get requests for them all the time!
“Take out the cornflour,” my husband suggested, “that’s what’s making them so hard.”
BUT I ALWAYS MAKE THEM WITH CORNFLOUR! They wouldn’t be MY pakoras if they didn’t have cornflour in them.
The next day, I tried again, reducing the cornflour and the salt (even though it didn’t feel right to me). The taste was SLIGHTLY improved, but still way too hard.
“Someone must have given your pakoras the Evil Eye,” someone in my family said, only half-jokingly.
But I would not be deterred.
I tried again and again, making batch after batch until my family begged me to stop.
“Please, consider our teeth,” my mother implored, “try making samosas instead.”
And so, with my family’s best interest at heart, I hung up the towel.
I made the samosas, but inside, I was having an identity crisis.
I didn’t even know who I was without that pakora recipe. Developing it over the years had been a major win for me as an American struggling to learn Pakistani cuisine. Without it, I was like Superman after a dose of Kryptonite —stripped of my powers, completely ordinary. What is Ramadan without pakoras?
I was even more depressed when we planned an iftari for my sister-in-law (“Appa”) and her family. When we decided the menu, my husband suggested we buy kachoris from the market so I wouldn’t tire myself frying anything.
But we all knew the real reason for the kachoris.
When Appa and her family came, we all said our greetings, exchanged hugs and kisses with the kids, and Appa joined me in the kitchen to help out.
“This all looks great! Hey, where are the pakoras?” she asked.
I heaved a forlorn sigh.
“Pakoras are…a sensitive topic in this house right now,” my husband explained, and patted my arm reassuringly.
Appa looked from me to my husband. Her expression clearly said “Uhh, ok weirdos.”
The problem was, pakoras were as much a nonnegotiable for iftari in her family as they were in our own. The kachoris wouldn’t cut it, we had to have pakoras as well.
“I just…can’t do it. Appa, you make them please?”
So Appa came to the rescue and put an apron on over her pretty dress and made the pakoras while I got everything else ready. When we broke our fasts and Appa ate the first pakora, she made a face.
“There’s something wrong with your besan.”
I froze, my spoonful of fruit chaat suspended in the air mid-way to my mouth. Hope flared inside of me. Could it be?
“What do you mean?” I asked carefully.
“My pakoras never taste like this. You’ve got a bad batch of besan, it always throws the taste off.”
My husband and I looked at each other. No words needed to be said.
The next day, a new packet of besan was in the kitchen.
As I fried the first batch of pakoras, I was nervous. What if it wasn’t just the besan? What if I’d just lost my touch?
When it was time for iftar, I think we were all a bit quiet as we ate those first pakoras. I bit into the first one, and sweet relief washed over me as I bit into the crispy outer coating and the familiar spicy, tart, buttery flavor danced over my tongue.
Seriously, I think we were all so happy to have them back, we were ready to shout out a round of Takbirs.
The moral of this story kids, is, don’t doubt yourself. Don’t always assume the problem is you. Have confidence in your skills, and, if there’s something wrong with your pakoras, it might just be a bad batch of besan.
Pakistani Pakora Recipe Notes
There are a few things to keep in mind when using my Pakistani Pakora recipe. First, the order of the ingredients is very important. Try to add your ingredients as I describe in the recipe.
If you want your Pakistani pakora nice and crispy, then use 3/4 cup water for 1 cup of besan (gram flour). I don’t have a measuring spoon small enough to accurately measure how much baking soda I use for a crispy batch, but it’s more than 1/16 of a tsp and less than 1/8 of a tsp.
If you like them puffy (why?) then use only 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water and about 1/8 tsp of baking soda. Please note that, after making the batter, if you wait too long to fry these, the onions will start to release their water, making the batter runnier. If this happens, just mix more besan into the batter until you get back to the original consistency.
You need to have plenty of oil in your wok (karhai) in order for these to expand. If you are stingy with the oil, they will be flat and tough.
I know that everyone has a pakora recipe that they love, but I really hope you try this one at least once. I honestly think you’re going to love it as much as I do.
Now go forth, my students! Be bold! Be brave! And remember: Never under-fry your Pakistani Pakoras!
This Pakistani pakora recipe makes crunchy, spicy, buttery delicious pakoras (potato fritters). The best you've ever eaten, guaranteed!
- 1 small ~70g onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 small potato (~90-170g depending on potato type) (cut twice in half lengthwise and sliced)
- green chilli (if large and spicy, only need 1), chopped
- green coriander handful of leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp cumin (zeera)
- 1 tsp crushed red chili
- 1/2 tbsp (heaped) whole coriander seeds roughly crushed
- 1/2 tsp khatai powder (amchur)
- less than 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp corn flour (cornstarch)
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup gram flour (besan)
- 3/4 cup water
- oil (as needed for deep frying)
Pour the oil in your deep fryer/wok and heat on low flame.
Chop the onion, potato, green chili and green coriander and combine in a mixing bowl.
Add the cumin, crushed red chili, coriander seeds, khatai powder, baking soda, corn flour, salt and gram flour. Mix together.
Slowly add in the water and mix.
Increase heat to medium flame.
Use a tablespoon to put tablespoonfuls of batter into the oil.
Fry until golden brown and crispy, turning as needed to cook evenly.
Drain on paper towels before serving.
The order that you put the ingredients in is very important. Follow the steps in the recipe exactly to get the desired result.
Water amounts may vary based on your gram flour. Start with my measurement and increase water or add in more gram flour if necessary.
Very quick chutney: Combine equal parts green coriander and green chili, a clove of garlic, a pinch of salt and yogurt (as desired to thin out the chutney). Blend to desired consistency. If too watery, chill in the fridge to firm up before serving.