From Odisha's Piaji To Japanese Tempura, It's All About Pakoras
Image Credit: Pakoras are a common sight on every street in India. Image via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a Sunday evening. As the rain hits the ground, the gust of cold wind hits your face after a long intense summer. The smell of petrichor fills the air and everything goes grey. All you want to do now is take your blanket and cosy up in your bed. The ambient pitter-patter of the rain calms you down. Nothing beats that feeling! 

But it still feels incomplete. You go to the kitchen and ask mumma to brew a hot cup of the classic 'adrak wali chai' (ginger tea) and fry some pakore to accompany it, because it always tastes better when mom makes it. Yes! now that feels complete. 

As Indians, it is one of our core memories to enjoy a cup of tea and a plate of fritters, lovably known as 'pakode' in the monsoon season. But why do we always get this sudden urge for deep-fried food during the monsoon? The moisture-free surface of pakoras pairs well with the damp weather and our body's craving for carbohydrates temporarily increases our serotonin levels in the gloomy weather. 

While the traditionally known fritters are slices of potatoes or onions fried in oil, the diversified taste palates of every region of India have given birth to its own variant of fritters. Let us have a look at five different types of pakoras around India.

1) Maddur Vada - Karnataka 

Made with a mix of rice flour, cream of wheat or rava, Maddur Vada has quite a history. In 1917, Ramchandrya Budhya ran a Vegetarian Refreshment Room at the Maddur station in Karnataka. One day, when Ramchandrya was running behind schedule, he tossed around some ingredients to prepare something edible for the passengers. Who knew that Ramchandrya had accidentally created one of the most iconic and beloved snacks of Karnataka

2) Gulgule - Uttar Pradesh

Known as the Indian fried doughnut, Gulgula (plural: 'gulgule') is a deep-fried sweet made with whole wheat flour, sugar or jaggery and fennel seeds in the Northern belt of India. Gulgule is also referred to as Pua.

3) Piaji - Odisha 

Piaji, a famous street food of Odisha, is derived from the word 'Piaja' (onion in Odia). Made with a batter of chana dal and thanks to the use of baking soda, the Piaji fritters are soft on the outside and crispy on the inside.

4) Kothimbir Vadi - Maharashtra 

A savoury crisp snack made with besan (gram flour), coriander, peanut, sesame seeds and selected spices, Kothimbir Vadi are the go-to snack for those long drives to Lonavala in the monsoon season!

5) Nadru Monje - Kashmir 

Made with a base of lotus stem, Nadru Monje is a popular street food in Kashmir. The lotus stems are dipped in a rice flour batter to remove the moisture from the lotus stems. The lesser moisture in the lotus stems makes for crispier fritters.

Although the list of Indian fritters goes on and on, it is worth mentioning that our pakoras have also made an International influence. Fritters, tempura - all of their origins can be traced back to the Indian pakora.

Taking a trip back to the 16th century reveals that the Portuguese sailors took the Indian recipes of pakoras on their nautical journey. On their stops at the Indian ports, the Portuguese recruited a lot of local cooks to teach them the methods of vegetable preparation, one of which was deep frying the vegetables as pakoras. This would ensure that the food lasted on the extensive sea journeys as frying the food would almost dehydrate it.

The Japanese tempura also has its inspirations from the Indian pakoras. Research shows that tempura in Japan came into existence only after the Portuguese arrived in Japan. The Portuguese were accompanied by Indian cooks which in turn explains the birth of tempura.

It is mind-boggling to even think that the pakoras we have had as mere snacks left such a global imprint and have such a rich culture hidden beneath them. The stories embedded in each grain of these pakoras only make us more appreciative of this comfort snack that makes its entry every rainy season. I truly hope this convinces you to order yourself a plate of pakoras!