The onset of monsoons uplifts us. The petrichor stirs awaken the kid within us and I don’t know about anyone else but I want to dance in the rain, kick splash the puddles, feel the raindrops on my face and sing Bollywood songs. If I had my way, I would don a chiffon saree and sway in one, like the actors in our tinsel town do. The monsoons are just too romantic. In our kitchens, there’s a duo that also sizzles when the rains come in. Garama garam pakodas and a hot cup of adrak ki chai (ginger tea). Like two lovers finally getting together, they are placed next to each other on the burners where they happily dance in their vessels, till finally, the culinary couple is served hot with green chutney and ketchup to be devoured by all.
While the Congress scoffed on hearing our esteemed Prime Minister make the “pakoda” statement earlier this year, there is no doubt that the popularity of these fritters make it a sought-after snack for the common man and there are nooks and corners of every neighborhood that thrive on selling pakodas to make a decent living. Whoever first thought about fritters must be a genius. You can make pakodas out of a crazy number of things. Vegetables like brinjal, bitter gourd, onions, paneer, potato, spinach, cauliflower; flowers as those of banana and pumpkin and stems like the lotus stem are ideal for pakodas. “Khandani Pakode Wale” in Nauroji Nagar, Delhi sells more than 20 types of pakodas. He even offers a combo pack of every piece of pakoda so you can try all the different kinds. It’s my hot, happy brown paper bag takeaway when it rains. With the traffic jams that accompany the monsoons, I’m in a zen state while the world around me honks crazily to a non-budging traffic. It’s just the rains, pakodas, music and me. Ah! Sheer bliss!
Ever since I got married, each time I go to Lajpat Nagar, Rama Palace Corner Cart is my stopover for moong dal pakodas. It’s interesting to see people from all walks of life hovering around the thela for their plate of heaven. It’s a perfect example of how food can put everyone on the same platform and bring back the simple joys we have grown up with. This where conversations are made and friendships begin.
One of our neighbors’ cuts left over rotis into even pieces and tosses them into the besan batter to serve them as evening snacks. At other times, pakodas are made of leftover rice. Rice is mashed and then mixed with gram flour/ besan, chopped coriander, ginger, onions, spices, and salt. The result is crusty, hot balls that are golden brown on the outside and soft as a baby pillow on the inside.
Bread pakodas in our house are for a monsoon day or when we deserve a special treat, like after a good workout. Mashed up potatoes are spiced up and sandwiched between two bread slices before it is dunked into a mix of gram flour, spices, salt, and water. Care must be taken that the mix is not watery. The thickness should be enough that it coats the back of a spoon. Once the consistency is perfect it envelopes the bread well and when slid into hot oil, forms a golden layer around it sealing the flavors within. Using potatoes as a filling is not mandatory. One can simply use a halved bread slice and make a no-fuss bread pakoda.
An initiative of Rushina M. Ghildiyal, a food chronicler, 30th July is celebrated as #ChaiPakoda Day. Versatile, easy to make and a ‘feel good’ factor; pakodas are our answer not just on rainy days, but any day. Have it for breakfast, tea time snacks or make it for tiffin. Yes! It’s overloaded in calories but it’s worth the extra mile one has to run later to burn it off. Trust me!