Snacks are an important part of Indian cuisine. Pakoras and bhajis are popular snacks in India and are eaten hot for breakfast or lunch, with ketchup, generous spoonfuls of fresh green chutneys made from cilantro or mint, and Maggi Hot and Sweet Sauce. Pakoras can be prepared in a variety of ways using different vegetables, meats, and fish, though typically they are made with fresh vegetables like onions, whole green chiles, potatoes, leafy greens, or carrots. The vegetables are grated and chopped, then mixed with dry ingredients—like chickpea flour and salt—to help release their liquid in order to form a batter.
Because cauliflower is a tough, hearty vegetable that’s more difficult to draw water from, I’ve chosen to make the batter first by whisking water with a mixture of chickpea flour, salt, and Kashmiri chile powder, garam masala, salt, and ground turmeric for a vivid yellow hue. Incorporating the chile powder or a hot dried red pepper will give your pakoras a pleasant kick, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can make a similar seasoning by combining 3/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika with 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne and use it in place of the chile powder. The consistency of the batter should be that of a runny custard. Too thick, and the batter will produce a heavy, bready crust. Too thin, and it won’t stick to the cauliflower well.
For the crispiest cauliflower, each of its crevices must be coated well, with excess batter shaken off before it’s fried. Keep an eye on the cauliflower as it fries, since smaller florets will take less time to cook than larger pieces. Once the pakoras are golden brown, you’ll use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Crunchy and tender, the pakoras make a satisfying snack and should be served warm and eaten as soon as they’re ready.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the chickpea flour, salt, red chile powder, turmeric, and garam masala together. Whisk in the water until completely smooth. The batter should be runny like a custard and not too thick or thin. Fold the cauliflower florets into the batter to coat evenly.
In a 6-quart Dutch oven or wok, heat oil over medium heat until it reaches 350ºF (177ºC). Meanwhile, set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet or line the baking sheet with paper towels. Working in batches to prevent crowding the oil, use your fingers or tongs to lift cauliflower from batter, allowing excess to drain off, then carefully lower into the oil. Fry, stirring and rotating pieces gently as they cook, until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the fried florets to the prepared baking sheet and season with salt.. Return oil to 350ºF (177ºC) and repeat with remaining cauliflower florets. Serve hot or warm.
Spider or slotted spoon, rimmed baking sheet, wire rack or paper towels, instant-read thermometer
Different sizes of florets can create varying cooking times: smaller florets cook faster than larger ones, and pieces with thicker stems may require more time in the fryer.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The pakoras are best enjoyed within an hour of cooking.