Zucchini fritters/pakoras and a sari shop

Malleswaram 8th cross in Bangalore. Just the kind of place where you would find a sari shop

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completely hemmed in by street vendors. I walked around a bit before I could figure out where exactly the entrance was. Because what looked like an entrance, or would have been an entrance in any other universe, had become the temporary showroom for handwoven rugs and all kinds of things. Right outside the working entrance were these fruit vendors

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Inside, you walked into rooms whose walls were lined with thousands of saris. Tucked in between is a small shrine for the residing goddess, god and a saint or two.

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Under their benevolent eyes, you tell the salesperson what kind of sari you are looking for, silk, cotton or mixed, colour palette, and you better say something if you don’t want to spend the next seven days looking at all the saris they have in stock! Then he will proceed to unfurl one after the other.

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And you feel overwhelmed, confused, guilty, tempted, and mostly regretful, that you don’t know which one  you would like.  Or that you are not the owner of a personal jumbo jet, or a giant manor with hangar-like closets. That this kind man is not at all tired of showing you one sari after another. And if at the end of it, you walk away, he will not be upset at you.

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In the end, you settle for one. But only because it’s getting late and you can’t hang around here all evening. And  you have a splitting headache from all the indecision and from hearing your son tell you which ones he likes – they number in the twenties.

In this kind of street, you would probably find a small shop or shops selling pakoras or bajji as they are known in that part of the country. Pakoras are North Indian lingo for what Bengalis call bora. And what you might call fritters. They are crispy balls of salty goodness, deep-fried and hot. You eat them plain after you have done a lot of shopping. Or at home as a side for lentils and rice or khichuri, like this one. Or even with tea.

Like I said yesterday, I wanted to make ones with zucchini, which is not a traditional Bengali vegetable at all. But heck I live in Munich! Plus I had about three sitting in my fridge for more days than I could remember. A good reason to make something new, I say.

All  the zucchini fritter recipes that abound in the internet (or am I thinking burger?), include in step three the instruction to squeeze the last drop of liquid out of the grated and salted zucchini . I have read that line of instruction in those recipes and thought, well then why don’t I just put in some shredded paper towel or maybe some newspaper in there instead of zucchini, because that’s about as much nutrition left in there, after I have squeezed out all the vitamins. So NO. No squeezing out any liquid. In this recipe you get to keep every last drop of that goodness. But wait! You say, deep-frying is anyway not the best way to retain nutrition of anything, plus all those calories. To the first I saw that quick frying in fresh hot oil is not bad for the food. To the second I say isn’t it boring to count calories all the time? Have some fritters, just once, ’tis the season.

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS a.k.a BORA or PAKORA

Ingredients –

Zucchini – I used two small and got about 20 pakoras. You will need a lot because they will disappear fast!

Chickpea flour sold as besan in Indian stores/ regular all-purpose flour – about two cups

2 tsp rice flour (take a handful of uncooked rice in your coffee grinder and whiz until powdered) This adds crispiness

1 tsp nigella seeds

1 small green chilli (optional)/generous grinds of fresh black pepper

Salt – be generous

A pinch of baking powder

Peanut/sunflower or any other oil of your choice (with a high smoking-point, so no EVOO please!) for deep-frying

Process

  1. Wash zucchini and grate coarsly using your favourite mandolin or grater
  2. chop chilli if using and add both in a mixing bowl
  3. Salt generously and let sit for ten minutes
  4. See the liquid pooling at the bottom of the bowl? Feel happy.
  5. Add rice flour, then besan or flour by the tablespoon, and mix until you get a thick spoonable consistency. Like this

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6. Add the seeds, baking powder and check the seasoning. Add more salt if needed

7. No you are not seeing double. There are two spoons in that bowl. You will find out why very soon

8. Heat the oil till piping hot.

9. Drop a tiny ball of the batter into the oil. If it sinks to the bottom and then pops up immediately to the top while sizzling, you are ready!

10. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil, using one spoon to scoop up from the bowl and another spoon to push off the batter into the oil. Got it?

11. Fry till golden brown.

12. Drain on a mesh (I use a splatter screen), briefly lay on kitchen paper to soak up extra oil and serve

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Yes those are not smooth and round fritters. But you know what? Those uneven jagged edges are extra crisp and delicious, and add extra flavour to the whole fritter. In fact the more jagged your fritters, the tastier they will be. And in my book taste beats form any day.

So happy Puja weekend y’all! And yes you probably don’t know what I am talking about, but that’s OK. Just make some fritters this weekend, with or without khichuri!

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