Mixed Vegetable Pakoras

Nidhi Jalan loves her snacks. The owner of Brooklyn-based Masala Mama calls these deep-fried veggies the "tempura" of Indian food. The spice-infused batter fries up into a puffy and crunchy coating -- fresh cilantro chutney is the perfect dipping sauce. Though pakoras are usually served at tea time, Nidhi also loves them at cocktail hour.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 40 min
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 6 servings
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Ingredients

Green Chutney:

2 to 3 small Thai green or serrano chilies, roughly chopped (seeds removed for less heat)

2 bunches cilantro, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped (about 4 cups) 

2 small cloves garlic

One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 bunch mint, leaves picked (about 1 cup)

Juice from 2 limes (about 3 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar 

1/4 teaspoon roasted ground cumin (see Cook's Note)

Kosher salt 

Batter:

2 1/2 cups chickpea (besan) flour, plus more if needed

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 teaspoon ajwain (carom) seeds (see Cook's Note)

1/8 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) (see Cook's Note)

1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes 

A pinch of baking soda, optional, for making the batter puffy

Kosher salt 

Vegetables:

Canola oil, for frying

1 leaf curly kale, stemmed and chopped (1 cup)

1/2 small yellow onion, chopped

2 cups small cauliflower and/or broccoli florets

1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced 1/4-inch-thick

1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch-thick 

Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling 

Directions

Special equipment:
a deep fat fry thermometer
  1. For the green chutney: Combine the chilies, cilantro, garlic, ginger, mint, lime juice, sugar, cumin, 2 tablespoons water and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside. Makes: 3/4 cup.
  2. For the batter: Combine the chickpea flour, cilantro, ajwain, asafoetida, chili flakes, baking soda, if using, and a heaping tablespoon of salt. Gradually add enough water, while mixing, to form a smooth batter that has the consistency of thin pancake batter, about 2 cups water; it should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. For the vegetables and frying: Fill a large Dutch oven halfway with oil, attach a deep-fry thermometer and heat over medium-high heat to 340 degrees F. (It is important that the oil be medium hot, if too hot then the pakoras will brown on the outside but the vegetables will be raw on the inside.)
  4. Toss together the kale and yellow onion in a bowl. Then put the cauliflower/broccoli, red onion and potato into separate bowls. Once the oil is at temperature, add enough of the batter to the bowl of onions to coat. Then drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil (being careful not to overcrowd) and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a cooling rack set over a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter and vegetables: 5 to 7 minutes for the cauliflower/broccoli florets, 6 to 10 minutes for the potatoes and 5 to 7 minutes for the kale. 
  5. Sprinkle the pakoras with sea salt and serve hot with the green chutney for dipping.

Cook’s Note

Look for roasted ground cumin in your grocery store or toast and grind your own cumin seeds. Ajwain (carom) seeds have a thyme-like flavor. Asafoetida (hing) is garlic-like tasting and essential in Indian cooking. All can be found in an Indian food market.