Onion Pakoras are a type of fritter made from onion and garbanzo flour, seasoned with various spices. They are a popular street food in India. I haven’t experienced the pleasure of eating Onion Pakoras on the streets of Mumbai –I’ve only had them in a restaurant or made them at home– but I like to imagine myself eating them on a busy street, surrounded by color and light. One of the pleasures of eating pakoras in a restaurant is being able to spoon various chutneys onto the pakoras. These are accompanied by a cilantro/parsley chutney with just a hint of ginger.
The green chutney is one of my favorites, but I have to confess it was no easy task to find cilantro. One of the ladies at the open market told Rick they don’t sell enough fresh herbs to justify keeping any on hand, especially out of season. There’s only one store that seems to have fresh herbs on a regular basis and it’s the one farthest from me, naturally. By the time I got there, there was a single package of cilantro and it was past its prime. I bought it anyway and after picking through it I had just short of a loosely packed cup of leaves which I supplemented with some of the stems. After blending the cilantro with some lemon juice, a hot pepper, freshly grated ginger and a little olive oil, there was about a half cup of green chutney, which actually worked out great for the amount of pakoras. I supplemented it with dried parsley. It turned out fine, but I couldn’t help wishing I’d had more fresh cilantro or even parsley.
The process for making the chutney is very similar to making chimichurri, but the flavor is quite different. It can be made hotter with the addition of a hotter type of pepper. I used padron peppers, which are similar to jalapenos. It would make an interesting sauce for vegetables or tofu. We tossed the leftover chutney with some greens. It made a nice change from our usual oil and vinegar.
For the pakoras you’ll need about 2 cups of thinly sliced onions. To this you’ll add some chickpea flour (aka garbanzo flour or gram flour), some spices and enough water to make a batter. They can be deep fried, but I prefer to shallow fry them in order to avoid dealing with the used oil.
The recipes below should be used as a guide. The amounts you use will depend on personal preference and the quantity of ingredients you have available. I would have liked to serve a fruit chutney as well, for contrast, but in the end the green chutney was fine.
- 1 cup cleaned cilantro leaves and stems (or one cup each cilantro and parsley if using fresh)
- 1 tablespoon chopped green chili, more or less
- 1 - 2 teaspoons grated ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- juice of one lemon
- 2 or more tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley (omit if using fresh)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups thinly sliced onion (one large onion)
- 1 cup garbanzo flour
- 2 tablespoons chopped green chili (optional)
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley or a handful chopped, fresh parsley or cilantro
- 1 - 2 teaspoons each: turmeric, curry powder, ground cumin, smoky paprika
- ½ - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 - 2 teaspoon salt
- Oil for frying (I used sunflower oil)
- Place the cilantro, green chili, ginger and lemon juice in a tall container and liquify using a stick blender.
- Blend in olive oil.
- Stir in the dried parsley if using.
- Season to taste and adjust the amounts of lemon juice and olive oil as desired.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
- Place the onions and green chilis in a medium mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the garbanzo flour, the dry spices and the salt.
- Sprinkle the flour/spice mix over the onions and toss together with your hands.
- Add enough water to make a batter thick enough to hold the pakoras together. Slightly runny is better than too thick. I measure out a half cup and add the water a little at a time.
- Cover the bottom of a large skillet with oil and allow it to come to temperature over medium high heat. It should just begin to shimmer on the top.
- Add the pakora mix by spoonfuls, flatten slightly and fry until golden brown on both sides, about five minutes all together.
- Drain on paper towels and season with more salt.
- It's recommended to make a single fritter and after tasting, adjust the seasoning in the batter. I always seem to need a little more salt and cumin.
Onion Pakoras with Cilantro-Parsley Chutney are simple to make at home. You can eat them as a snack, or as part of a larger meal. We like to have them with a bowl of tomato soup for a Meatless Monday meal.