A Crash Course In Coating With Batters, Flour & Breading
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WHETHER you're looking to impress guests or simply treat yourself, learning how to properly coat ingredients is an essential cooking skill. A light dusting or a thick batter can make or break a dish, so choosing the right coating for the job is important. In this guide, we'll explore some classic coating options that are easily available in the market, and the dishes they're best suited for.

Rice Flour for Fry-Ups

When it comes to deep frying vegetables, meats or seafood, rice flour creates an ultra-crisp exterior that stays crunchy to the last bite. The fine texture of rice flour allows it to cling nicely without becoming soggy in hot oil. Try dusting okra, eggplant or chicken pieces with rice flour before frying until golden. You'll be amazed at how light and crispy they turn out. Rice flour also works well for fritters like onion bhajis — its subtle flavour lets the filling shine through. 

Gram Flour for Bhajjis and Pakoras

Gram flour, also known as besan or chickpea flour, is a staple coating for India's beloved savory fritters. When combined with water or yogurt to form a thick paste, gram flour creates a delicately spiced batter that seals in moisture as it cooks. Whether you're making classic onion or potato varieties, or experimenting with seasonal veggies, gram flour ensures your bhajjis and pakoras emerge light and crispy on the outside while staying tender within. Its nutty taste also enhances the flavours of the fillings. 

Gram flour is the star ingredient in many South Indian breakfast specialties as well. When combined with rice flour, water and fermented batter, besan flour creates the perfect fluffy yet substantial dosa. Its ability to stretch and crisp up on the tawa makes gram flour irreplaceable for the classic savory crepe. You'll find similar batter used to make uttapams - thick, rice-flour based pancakes usually stuffed with onions. Experiment with add-ins like cashews or potatoes to put your own spin on these staple snacks.

Breadcrumbs for Cutlets

For a crunchy exterior with great texture, breadcrumbs are the way to go. The dried bread pieces adhere beautifully to meat, seafood or vegetables that have been dipped in beaten egg before coating. Chicken, fish or paneer cutlets coated in breadcrumbs and shallow fried make for a satisfying snack or light meal. You can also bread and bake seafood, cauliflower or mushrooms for a healthier option. Play with different types of bread — pao, buns or rusks — to discover your favourite coating. 

Panko Crumbs for a Japanese-Indian Fusion

For those looking to experiment with global flavours, Japanese-style panko crumbs make an excellent coating. Their large, irregular texture creates an ultra-crisp shell that stays crunchy even after baking. Salmon, chicken or paneer nuggets coated in panko before baking will have your whole family asking for seconds. You can also use panko to top casseroles, gratins or kadai dishes for a unique twist on classic Indian comfort foods. Whether as a coating or topping, panko's subtle crunch is sure to be a hit.

Cornmeal on Fritters for that Extra Crunch

Cornmeal creates an irresistibly crunchy coating when used on cutlets, fish fillets or vegetable fritters. Its coarse texture and mild flavour profile means it doesn't overpower delicate ingredients. To use, simply spread cornmeal on a plate and dredge items to be cooked in the yellow grains. The cornmeal will adhere better if the items are first dipped in egg or milk. Fry or bake coated foods until the outside is golden brown and the cornmeal has formed a shatteringly crisp shell. Cornmeal is a versatile coating for anything you want to enjoy with an extra satisfying crunch.

With some practice, you'll be a pro at selecting the perfect coating for any recipe. Don't be afraid to experiment with new combinations — part of the fun is putting your own spin on traditions. Just be sure to choose ingredients that complement rather than overpower the star of the show.