Pakoras are a Ramazan and rainy day staple in Pakistan.
Battered and fried, pakoras loom large in the desi subconscious. You can have them as a roadside snack or in the evening with a cup of tea.
In India, it is said that each city has its own pakora: Hyderabad’s mirchi bajji, Jaipur’s mirchi vade, Bombay’s batata vada, Delhi’s palak patte ka pakora, and Ram laddu, Gujarat’s numerous bhajias and gotas.
In Pakistan, if you decide to grab a packet of pakoras from the market (served in glorious oil soaked newspaper bags), you will likely get a "mixed" pakora - a medley of onions, potatoes and chilli deep fried in gram flour batter. At home, we would get served a similar type - onion and potato mix - just more delicately prepared and trolley ready.
It's unclear how pakoras like Rooh Afza became an iftar spread staple in Pakistan. Wherever you go, you will undeniably find pakoras served alongside fruit chaat, samosas and Rooh Afza. Unsurprisingly, I also had my first palak pakoray (featured here) at my friend Zainab's place for iftar during eighth grade.
I loved how wispy and light they were, and find them to be a spring-appropriate entry way to pakora newbies.
Here I used my mom's pakora batter recipe but instead of putting her preferred onion/potato mix, used trimmed spinach leaves.
2 cups besan (gram flour) - can be found in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores
1 cup water
Salt to taste
2 tsp coriander seeds, roasted and ground
1 1/2 - 2 tsp red chilli flakes
Pinch of baking soda
1 bunch of spinach leaves, trimmed and halved
1/2 cup of canola/vegetable oil - you may need to add more as needed
Place the besan in a large bowl and add spices. Slowly pour in the water, whisking it in till the mixture is consistent (it shouldn't be watery or too thick).
Heat a small saucepan (I used a 2 qt. saucepan) and add about 1/2 cup of oil or more if you'd like (Note: pakoras are traditionally deep-fried. In the photos, the pakoras are pan-fried and so are on the thinner end). Bring heat up to medium. Once the oil begins to simmer, cover the spinach leaves with the flour batter and carefully drop the dredged spinach leaves on to the pan making sure their shape stays intact. Don't overcrowd the pan. If the pakoras don't float up, let the oil heat up a little more.
Fry till it becomes a medium brown. Flip. It took me about a minute on each side. Bring the heat down to low if the pan begins to overheat and pakoras begin to burn easily (Note: be careful with the last batch as the oil gets very hot and can splatter).
Transfer fried pakoras on paper towels.
Repeat the process till all spinach leaves are fried. Serve with green chutney (as seen here)