Monsoon calls for fried food & pakoras seem to be the perfect answer.
There's a special bond between rains and fried food; a few drops of water on the ground, the first gush of rain-soaked Earth and we rush to the kitchen to chop onions and fry pakoras.
I am originally from north India, from Lucknow to be specific, where we make pakoras with every possible vegetable available during the season. Onions, potatoes, brinjals, ridge gourd, spinach are sliced or chopped, dipped into thick, hing (asafoetida) and ajwain-flavoured besan (gram flour) batter and deep fried till the coating is crisp and vegetable soft. Rikwach is another popular monsoon dish, which is made with arbi or colocasia leaves. The leaves are cleaned and layered with a mix of moong and urad dal paste, rolled, steamed and sliced. These slices are then pan-fried and eaten with chutney. In western UP or Uttaranchal, you'll find another monsoon snack called Rasaje made of yellow moong dal. The dal paste is cooked with a mustard tempering and then spread in a thali to cool down and set. The thickened dal is cut into thick rectangular pieces, pan-fried and served with green chutney.
Apart from all the deliciousness cooked at home, there's the glorious chaat of Lucknow. After avoiding the fried and spicy food all through the murderous summer, the Lucknowis take a sigh of relief when temperature dips a bit and head out to grab the crisp aloo ki tikki,matar ki tikki or pani ka batashas filled with spicy water, which gets more flavourful thanks to the addition of green mangoes.
Among all the pakoras that my mom would make, my favourites were the ones she made with those tiny onions also called cocktail or Madras onions. She would slit the onions from top, stuff in the masala and batter fry them. The crunch of the besan with the softness of the onions is a lovely blend of textures.
Recipe for Cocktail Pakoras
200 gms Madras onions
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp amchoor (mango powder) powder
Salt to taste
For the batter
100 gms besan
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 pinches hing
1/2 tsp ajwain or carom seeds
Salt to taste
1 cup water
Mustard oil for frying
Red chilli powder and kebabmasala/chaat masala for seasoning
1. Peel the onions and make a cross section cut on top.
2. Mix chilli powder, coriander powder, amchoor and salt and fill in the slits made in onions. Coat the onions properly with the leftover masala.
3. Mix the ingredients for the batter and add water to get the desirable consistency. The batter shouldn't be watery and thick enough to coat the onions well.
4. Heat oil in a wok, dip the onions in the batter and fry till the besan coating is crisp.
5. Sprinkle red chilli powder and kebab masala/chaat masala over the pakoras and serve with chutney.
The author is a freelance food and travel writer and shares her stories on Foodchants. She is on a perpetual quest to learn about the history of regional food.