Street Food: Pakora

An important aspect of street food is how easy it is to eat and transport. When you're walking around a new city, choosing portable food to enjoy while you explore can help maximize your time during your visit. Pakoras, a popular Indian chaat, are great little bites that you can wrap up and take with you for a delicious and traditional snack.

Pakoras are fried snack fritters that originated in South Asia, specifically Northern India, and have become popular around the world in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South Africa, and England. Pakoras are small bits of a mixture of one or more of onion, spinach, potato, paneer (soft cheese), plantain, cauliflower, tomato, chilli, or other fillings, fried in a batter of chickpea flour. The spinach, soft cheese, onion, and potato varieties are among the most popular pakoras.

Unlike many typical vegetable fritters, the chickpea flour, commonly known as gram flour, gives the pakora a distinct flavor and a crispy coating. They are usually made fresh by street vendors and sold very hot in newspaper cones, kind of like English fish and chips. In places like England, besides being available at stands or some restaurants, food trucks have also begun selling pakoras. Vegetable pakoras are sometimes served with a chili or sweet and sour sauce or a mint yogurt.

Even though pakoras originated as a simple snack and developed into a common street food in India, their popularity has led them to become parts of festivals and celebrations. Vegetable pakoras are a popular snack during the Holi Festival, the Festival of Colors, during which people generally only eat traditional cuisine. In some of the Muslim parts of South Africa, pakoras are known as dhaltjies and are eaten at celebratory occasions like weddings, births, or at Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast of Ramadan.

Finding pakoras on the street might be difficult in North America, but since they're a pretty common and popular part of Indian cuisine, you should be able to find pakoras at most authentic Indian restaurants, especially vegetarian ones, in most major cities.

Photo: ampersandyslexia