Mirchi ka Pakoda

Mirchi ka Pakoda

Forget chilli poppers or Padrón peppers – India’s mirchi ka pakoda
(whole green chillies dipped in lentil-flour batter and deep-fried)
take spiciness to a whole new, literally mouthwatering, level.

Origins
The translation of pakoda is mundane – it means ‘cooked lumps’ – but the dish is as ancient as the Indian hills. Many trace the origins of the pakoda to Uttar Pradesh, famed for its fusion of Hindu and Muslim cooking ideas, but the word is Sanskrit, placing the pakoda on a far older calendar. The Sanskrit language was spoken as early as 2000 BC, so this could well be one of the world’s first fritters.

You’ll need
Tamarind paste stuffing
6 tbs tamarind pulp
1 tsp palm sugar
¼ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

Pakoda
10–15 large green chillies, with
stems
60g (2oz) gram (chickpea)
flour
1½ tbs rice flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground chilli
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp whole cumin seeds
A little cold water
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Lime chutney, chopped
onions and fresh coriander
(cilantro) leaves to serve

Cooking Method
1 Mix together the tamarind paste stuffing ingredients to form a thick paste.
2 Using a small knife, make a cut in the side of each chilli and press in a teaspoon of the tamarind paste stuffing.
3 Combine the gram flour, rice flour, baking powder, salt, ground chilli, ground turmeric and cumin seeds and mix into a thick batter with a little cold water.
4 Heat the oil in a large pan suitable for deepfrying until the surface shimmers.
5 Holding it by its stem, dip each chilli into the batter until it is thickly coated, then pour a teaspoon of batter over the chilli and drop quickly and carefully into the hot oil.
6 Deep-fry the chilli pakoda in small batches for 2–3 minutes until golden brown, then remove from the oil and drain.
7 Serve with lime chutney, chopped onions and coriander leaves.

Tasting notes
For newbies in India, pakoda seem like a safe bet. Battered vegetables. Sounds risk-free. Even your first few bites of these friendly-looking brown parcels will probably be reassuringly mild. And it’s at this point, after you have been lulled into a false sense of security by chickpeas, onion, spinach, potato and eggplant, that mirchi ka pakoda chooses to strike: this scorching snack conceals a whole green chilli, seeds and all. Fast cooking in hot oil preserves the heat, so what goes into your mouth is as explosive as what went into the batter. Seek out regional variations: in Gujarat, the mirchi ka pakoda are stuffed with tamarind and mango powder; in Rajasthan, the chillies are laced with spiced potatoes.

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