Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
stellabella

Besan & Pakoras: If at first you don't succeed..

Recommended Posts

On Friday night my friend and I tried to duplicate the Indian meal we'd learned to prepare in our Indian Cooking class.  I won't bore you with too many details but want to share one revelation and make one plea for help.

1]  we tried making pakoras from thinly sliced vegs [potatoes, eggplant, squash].  i thought the pakora batter looked wrong but wasn't sure why or how, being a total novice to Indian cooking.  we coated the slices and dropped them in the heated oil [@ 4 inches] and all the batter came off.   :sad:   so then jennifer got the idea to make fritters--she added about a cupful or chickpea flour to the batter, we diced the vegs and mied them together in the batter, then i dropped them by the tablespoonful into the oil, reduced to about an inch in the bottom of a wok--they cooked nicely, crispy, just a little greasy but otherwise flavorful.  i asked jennifer if this was another traditional way of making pakoras and she said she'd never heard of them done this way, and that maybe she had made it up.  did she?  does anyone know?  this method works splendidly, in any case.

2] i think but dare not voice my suspicion to my friend, who seems  commited to her belief that Nirav gram flour is the correct flour, that we used the wrong flour.  help me, someone.  the recipe, and our teacher, told us to use "besan [Nirav brand,chickpea flour, gram flour]"--the instructions ahveme confused.  okay, so at the indian grocery we get a bad marked Nirav besan gram flour.  it looks courser and darker than the chickpea flour she added later to the batter--and no where on the bag does it say chickpea flour, just gram flour.

what IS besan?  is there more than one type?  do pakoras require a blend of gram and chickpea or are these the same thing?  i have no idea and would appreciate any advice. :smile:

[the rest of the meal, stuffed parathas, kadhi, kichadi, green chutney--all good tho salty [we followed the recipes to a T, something I normally don't do].  the besan burphi turned out the best, tho it was a little stiff]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Stellabella,

I'm not an expert but this is what I had learned when I dabbled in an Indian cooking class. Chickpea flour is also known as besan flour. Gram flour is flour ground from the gram legume and is similar to and interchangeable with besan flour. However, I've never used gram flour.

I learnt two methods for making pakoras. The first one uses chickpea flour and spices to make a batter to coat the sliced vegetables. The goal is to try to get a slightly fluid consistency as a thick batter would produce a 'bready" pakora.

The second method only uses potatoes, onions, and spinach that is combined with a sticky mixture of gram or besan flour and spices. The potatoes are grated, the onions are sliced into thin semi-circles and halved again, and the spinach is chopped into strips the same size as the onion. The flour and the spices are sifted over the vegetables and a tbsp or two of water is added to make a stiff and moist mixture - but NOT a batter. Using your hands, form loosely shaped patties from the mixture and then deep fry.

I prefer the second method as they are lighter and more delicate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

my eternal gratitude, degustation :smile:

i was sure there was a difference between gram and chickpea, but my friend thought not.

i am going to copy down your recommended methods for my next attempt at pakoras

our recipe says the batter should be like thick pancake batter.  the teacher 's pakoras were indeed "bready"--i actually thought the veg got lost in it, so much preferred our fallback method of combining the vegs into little pancakes.  your method sounds even better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you like I can type out the recipes and e-mail them to you...unless there is an interest and I can post them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Post! Post! Degustation, don't make me beg!

The Indian restaurant (Nikita India on Tate Street) in Greensboro, NC, where I ate until I moved to DC which has many more better Indian restaurants, used to serve the shredded spinach-onion type pakoras. These were somewhere between the fried cakes Degustation describes and the fritters Stellabella describes. They were coarsely shaped into little balls and the best parts were the bits of spinach or onion that would break away from the sphere and get real crispy. I don't think these were the most authentic pakoras in the world but they were tasty indeed.

I don't have any actual information to share, but reading this thread really made me want a plate of those things. With tamarind sauce and onion chutney.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To save Malawry from begging..... :wink:

Pakoras

Batter

1 cup sifted chickpea (besan) flour

1/4 tsp salt, to taste

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 ground pepper

1/8 cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp baking soda

3-4 Tbsp fresh coriander - chopped (optional)

1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds (optional)

Sift together all the dry ingredients. While stirring continuously, slowly add approx. 3/4 cup water until you have a batter that is thick but still retains a slightly fluid consistency. A thick batter will produce a "bready" pakora casing rather than a light crispy casing.

Prepare the vegetables for dipping. Recommended veggies are:

potatoes and/or sweet potatoes cut in 1/8" slices

caulifower flowerettes

wedges of spanish onion

1/4" eggplant slices

green pepper wedges

carrots cut extremely thinly

(Mushrooms and zucchini tend to be too watery)

Heat enough oil in a wok to allow the pakoras to deep fry, approx. 2-3 inches. The oil should be heated over a medium heat. Juggle your heat setting so that the pakoras sizzle in the oil, browning evenly and taking between 4-7 minutes to cook thoroughly. Some vegetables will obviously cook through much faster than others.

Dip a piece of vegetable in the batter and allow most of the excess batter to drip off. Drop into the hot oil. Check the pakoras frequently, turning with a slotted spoon. When they are evenly browned, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately. Do not attempt to keep them warm in the oven as they will simply turn limp and unappealing.

Note: Wipe up chickpea batter immediately as it dries like cement.

Recipe courtesy of Lynne Claire

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mixed Vegetable Pakoras

Prepare vegetables and toss in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients comfortably.

2 medium/large potatoes using the large tooth grater

1 large onion, halved, laid flat and sliced into thin semi circles and halved again

1/2 package (5 oz.) fresh spinach, washed, chopped into strips same size as the onion

In a separate bowl, sift the following dry ingredients:

1 cup gram or besan flour

1/2 tsp salt

black pepper to taste

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander (or combination of ground and whole coriander seeds)

1 tsp garam masala (make your own - see below)

Sprinkle sifted dry ingredients over mixed vegetables (make sure veggies are extremely dry), adding a small amount of water, 1 to 2 Tbsp at a time until a stiff but moist mixture that holds together results. You are aiming for a sticky mixture, NOT a batter.

In a wok, heat 1 to 1-1/2" vegetable oil. When oil is hot and just smoking begin cooking the pakoras. Adjust the heat so that the pakoras are sizzling gently, usually a medium-high setting. If the heat is too high the action of the oil will cause them to disentegrate; if it is too low they will absorb the oil.

With your fingers scoop up an egg-sized amount of the mixture, shaping it so that it holds together loosely in a rough patty of uniform thickness. This will keep the pakora from disintegrating in the oil and ensure even thorough cooking.

Ease the pakora into oil and cook until browned on the first side. This will take approx. 2 minutes. Turn and cook on second side with a minimum of handling. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain against the side of the wok. Lift out of wok and drain on paper towels.

Garam Masala

Commercially packaged pre-ground garam masalas are available but not recommended because they tend to be dominated by the less expensive spices. Also, they will almost certainly be stale because the spices have been pre-ground and sitting on a shelf for who knows how long.

There are many variations of garam masala mixtures as individual and regional preferences dictate the ingredients and proportions.

2 Tbsp cardamom seeds

2" cinnamon stick

1 tsp whole black cumin seeds

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

1/3 nutmeg

Grind in a spice grinder (I use a coffee bean grinder) until spices are powdery. Store in an air tight jar, away from direct sunlight and intense heat.

Add 2 tsp anardana seeds for Pakistani version of gram masala.

Recipes courtesy of Lynne Claire

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What great recipes Degustation!

And as for gram flour and chickpea flour... they are one and the same thing.

Gram flour = Chickpea flour = Besan

Certainly sometimes different brands can mill their flours somewhat differently.

In fact just last week I was speaking with Rose Levy Beranbaum who told me how flours can change in their state with time. ANd one has to freeze them to keep them at their optimum. So, maybe the besan or gram flour or chickpea flour that one buys, can be not as effective if it is old and been sitting out for too long. I know t he besan we get in India is very different from what ones sees here.

Several Indian chefs complain about the besan in the US being too refined. They end up smuggling it from India.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Bhukhhad
      Breakfast in India vs Breakfast in our homes outside India
      My breakfasts have varied from the time I started to cook for myself instead of just enjoying my Mother’s cooking. At first they were a mix-match of meal fixings, or just dinner leftovers. Or the good old breakfast cereal and milk. But as the years passed and I was more organized, the meals I enjoyed in my Mother’s home began to swim in my memories. And I began to prepare those for my family. However, I am no amazonian chef, so depending on  the hectic nature of the days plans, I switched back and forth from convenience with taste, to elaborate and of course tasty breakfasts. We do have both vegetarian and non vegetarian foods but Indian breakfasts will mostly be vegetarian. 
      So here are some of the things I might make: 
       
      1. Poha as in mostly ‘kande pohe’.
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
      3. Masala toast
      4. Indian Omelette
      5. Handwo piece
      6. Thepla
      7. Vaghareli rotli
      8. Dhokla chutney
      9. Idli sambhar
      10. Leftover sabji
      11. Muthiya
      12. Khakhra
      13. Upma
      14. Paratha
       
      1. Kande Pohe: 
      The dish derives its name from Maharashtra where the Kande Pohe are celebrated as breakfast. They can of course like any breakfast, be eaten at any time. 
      Pohe/ Poha are steamed rice grains that have been beaten flat and then again redried. So they are like Rice flakes. Except they are hand pounded, so have a knobbly texture. 
      You get several varieties in the market. I prefer the thick white variety. 
       
      1 cup dry poha per person
      1 medium onion sliced
      1/2 jalapeno deseeded
      1 sprig curry leaves
      2 small garlic cloves
      1/4 t cumin seeds
      1/2 lemon 
      1/8 t asafoetida
      1/4 t turmeric
      small handful of cilantro leaves
      1T fresh grated coconut
      2 T Peanut oil 
      salt to taste
      sugar to taste
       
      In a pan heat some oil and add cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter, add sliced onions and stir. Saute on medium heat till they turn slightly browned here and there. Do not burn the onions. 
      Meanwhile wash the Poha in a colander and drain. Do this two or three times to get rid of any dirt and also to allow them to rehydrate. They do not need soaking. Fluff the poha with a fork. Add salt sugar turmeric asafoetida and chopped cilantro. Mix and set aside. 
      Once the onions are ready add minced garlic and chopped jalapeno along with the curry leaf sprig. 
      Turn the heat to low and add the poha mixture. Stir to coat and to allow the turmeric and asafoetida to cook. The poha will turn mildly yellow and start giving a wonderful fragrance. 
      Turn off the heat. Fluff gently and plate. Garnish with fresh grated coconut and a squeeze of lemon juice. 
      Finger licking good!! 
      Now when I make this next I will post a picture. 
      Update: Ok I felt the urge to have Kande Pohe for tonight’s dinner. So here is a picture. I am certain to enjoy it for breakfast as well. The measurement of 1 cup poha per person is too much for one meal. But carried over to another meal thats super good! I will also have some stir fried bok choy greens made in the same kadhai after the poha was done, and some cooked and sliced beetroot for salad. My family will add some haldiram sev on the poha for extra crunch! And we will all have some chaas to round off this meal. 
      *************
       
      2. Cheela/ Pudla
       
      These are essentially crepes but in the Indian style. 
      1/2 cup sieved garbanzo bean (Besan) flour. 
      Water to form a thin batter
      1T plain yogurt 
      1/2 t ginger garlic paste 
      1/4 or less green chili crushed
      2 t heated oil *
      pinch asafoetida
      pinch turmeric 
      salt to taste
      chopped cilantro (two sprigs)
      some ‘masala’ from a readymade pickle
       
       
      Method:
       
      mix the ingredients together except oil. Heat oil in a separate pan and add about 1 to 2 t of the hot oil onto the batter. It will sizzle. Use a whisk to stir thoroughly. The batter should be pouring consistency. 
      Let the batter soak for about half an hour if possible. 
      On a hot griddle, pour a ladle full of the batter. Turn the griddle with your wrist to spread the batter around. Cook on moderate to high flame. Flip the crepe when all the sides look like they are ready. You can add a little oil to the sides of the frying pan to make the edges crispy. 
       
      In my home we usually have a Besan cheela with some yogurt its a quick and filling breakfast. You can have a small salad or fruit with it to make it more complete. Or fill the center of the cheela with some cottage cheese and fold for added creaminess! 
      ****************
      3. Masala Toast : 
       
      1 slice of bread (your choice) toasted
      1/2 small red onion minced
      1 medium roma tomato diced (or whatever you have)
      cilantro (few leaves)
      1/8 t cumin (optional)
      1/4 t chaat masala ( available in stores)
      1 inch cube paneer
      1 T peanut oil
      pinch turmeric (optional)
       
      Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions. Add the tomato and cook down to mush. Crumble the paneer and add the dry spices. Stir for a few seconds to warm the paneer. Add the cilantro and though I have not written it as an ingredient, I like a few drops of lemon juice. Do not overcook paneer.
      I started this topic because someone asked for Indian recipes on the new forum. I don’t think they have seen any yet. I hope they find this useful. I am enjoying it. 
      **************************
       
      I will add recipes to the list slowly. I have to however add that after a certain ‘age’ I have now resorted to having to make sure I have three things for breakfast besides coffee: a glass of water, a small portion of fruit and a small portion of some protein not necessarily meat. 
      Bhukkhad
       

    • By Deeps
      This is one of my daughter favorite dishes, being mild and less spicy she loves this rice dish.  Its super easy to make and goes well with most Indian curries.
      Do try this out and I am sure you will be happy with the results.
       

       
      Prep Time : 5 mins
      Cook Time: 5 mins
      Serves: 2
       
      Ingredients:
      1 cup rice(basmati), cooked
      1/2 cup coconut, shredded or grated
      1 green chili, slit
      1 dried red chili
      1 1/2 tablespoon oil/ghee(clarified butter)
      1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
      1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
      1/2 tablespoon chana dal(split chickpeas)
      1/2 tablespoon urad dal(split black gram)
      1 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
      A pinch of hing (asafoetida)
      Few curry leaves
      Salt to taste
       
      Directions
      1) Heat oil/ghee(clarified butter) in a pan in medium flame. I used coconut oil here because it tastes best for this dish.
      2) Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, chana dal(split chickpeas), urad dal(split black gram), green chili, dried red chili, ginger and curry leaves. Fry this for 30 seconds in medium flame. The trick is to ensure that these are fried but not burned.
      3) Add a pinch of hing(asafoetida) and mix well.
      4) Now add the cooked rice and coconut. Stir well for about 15 to 20 seconds and switch off the flame.
      5) Finally add salt into this and mix well. You could add peanuts or cashew nuts if you prefer. Goes well with most curries.
    • By Sheel
      Prawn Balchao is a very famous Goan pickle that has a sweet, spicy and tangy flavor to it. 
      For the balchao paste you will need:
      > 8-10 kashmiri red chillies
      > 4-5 Byadagi red chillies
      > 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
      > 1/2 tsk turmeric powder 
      > 1 tsp peppercorn
      > 6 garlic cloves
      > 1/2 tsp cloves
      > 1 inch cinnamon stick
      > Vinegar 
      First you will need to marinate about 250 grams of prawns in some turmeric powder and salt. After 15 minutes deep fry them in oil till them become golden n crisp. Set them aside and add tsp vinegar to them and let it sit for 1 hour. Now, make a paste of all the ingredients mentioned under the balchao paste and make sure not to add any water. In the same pan used for fryin the prawns, add in some chopped garlic and ginger. Lightly fry them and immediately add one whole chopped onion. Next, add the balchao paste amd let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in the prawns and cook until the gravy thickens. Finally add 1 tsp sugar and salt according to your taste. Allow it to cool. This can be stored in a glass jar. Let this mature for 1-3 weeks before its use. Make sure never to use water at any stage. This can be enjoyed with a simple lentil curry and rice.
    • By Sheel
      Goa being one of the popular cities of India is known for its local delicacies. These delicacies have been passed on from generation to generation, while some of them have continued to remain popular, some of them have lost their charm with the introduction of newer cuisines. Since the Portuguese entered Goa, they have had a strong influence on the local cuisine. A major turning point came when they introduced a variety of spices that changed their style of cooking completely. The Portuguese introduced plants like corn, pineapple,  papaya, sweet potato and cashews. One such example of a popular dish would be Pork Vindaloo. Goan food is a mix of hot and sour ingredients that make their seafood delectable. Kokum is one such ingredient which is known to be a tangy-sweet fruit. It is added in curries to render a sour taste and is often accompanied with seafood. Dried red chillies are one the most vital ingredients common among all the local delicacies that is either used in its whole form or ground into a fine paste. Since seafood is the soul of Goan food, it is preserved and relished in other forms too. Goan pickles are known to be quite famous. Prawn Balchao, a very famous prawn pickle prepared with dried red chillies is relished with a simple lentil curry and rice. Another delicacy is the Goan Para Fish made with mackerels, red chillies and goan vinegar. These are regular accompaniments with their routine meals. When talking about Goa, you cannot not mention their sausages. These mouth-watering and spicy sausages are made with pork and a variety of spices. Last but not the least, is the widely famous Goan bread, locally known as Poi. Leavened bread which is part of almost every meal and eaten with plain butter too. These ingredients make the cuisine extremely palatable and continue to make this cuisine stand out from the rest.
    • By shweta gupta
      Do any one familiar with the Bengali spice brands of India, my friend is Interested in Cooking Bengali Food. Can any One Suggest me few Brands to Reffer.
      Please comment
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...