The thing about home cooked food is that you often take it for granted. You believe that it is something ordinary which doesn’t need much attention — it is made at home everyday after all, how special can it be? But growing up teaches you how these everyday foods are truly special — as are everyday conversation, people, and life in general.
One such thing for me are the atte ki pakodis. Yes! While most of us make pakodis in Besan, or rice flower sometimes, in our home pakodis usually meant only one thing — Atte ki Pakodi. Made throughout the Hindi heartland of Uttar Pradesh, these little pakodis are simple, easy to make and yet so gratifying.
My first memories of the pakodis are that of my Dadi making the mixture in a large paraat (a flat dish used for kneading flour, usually) and frying the crisp dumplings for hours at end. We were a large joint family in a larger home in Kanpur and the house was always smelling of beautiful food. Parathas, Pooris, Badi-Aloo, Bharwan Tinda, Urad Khichdi, Pulav, Tehri, Pakodis…. the list is endless. The pakodis would usually be made for breakfast on Sundays when everyone was at home. Sometimes mother, aunt of dadi made them alone, sometimes they took turns. Feeding a large clan is never easy, is it?
The pakodis itself were pretty simple and fuss free like most home food is. Potatoes and Onions with a few whole read chillies and carom seeds, mixed in plain flower, fried in mustard oil until crisp. Also called nanbaria in some parts of the state, these fritters are sometimes made without any potatoes or onions. Those variants are often softer and sometimes more oily. Then there are the famous gulgulas of UP. Sweet fried dumplings made with flour fennel seeds, sugar, and deep fried in oil. Those were hardly made at home, so probably I never was exposed enough to like them. Can still not eat them.
According to Wikipedia, Pakodis originated in the Indian subcontinent. India, Pakistan, bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka, every country has a variety of pakodas aligned to the regional climate, produce, and culinary practices. So you have Begun bhaja of Bengal, Aloo Pakodi of UP, Bread Pakodas of Delhi (remember Ranvir Singh?), Banana Fritters of kerala, Maddur Vade of Tamil Nadu, Mangalore Bhajji of Bangalore, Gobhi ki Pakodi of Punjab, Aloo Bonda of Mumbai and Dakor no Gota of Gujrat. In Sri Lanka you have fritters made with fish and prawn; Bangladesh uses daals, greens and fish egg, and in Pakistan pakodis are made with potaoes, onions, with a occasional magaz ka pakoda thrown in.
Pakodas, however have undergone a huge makeover in the past century or so. What began as primarily a vegetarian snack, now includes fish, chicken, eggs, and whatnot. But the premise remains the same — batter coated and fried in oil. The best ones however remain the simple home made ones — or the ones you find on a highway with a glass of Chai.
If you ask people about their favourite pakodas, you’d not only see that most of these are the ones they’ve grown up eating, bit it will also give you a glimpse of the culinary diversity of our country. So noted food writer loves bread pakodas and moong daal pakodas, while blogger and photographer Vernika Awal drools on Kachri, a brinjal fritter from her ancestral home in Punjab. Pallavi Shastry dreams of Yam pakodas, and Shital Kakkad cannot do without mix bhajias Bombay style. And I love my atte ki pakodi. So when Rushina Manshaw Ghildiyal asked me to put a recipe for pakodis for the #ChaiPakodaDay today, I could think of only those
But what is Chai Pakoda Day, you may ask. Well, it is a day where we get together to celebrate the culinary traditions of fried food, aka, pakodas, bhajjis, bhajia, bhaja, across the country. Proven to aid immunity and digestion in the rainy season, Pakodas are best had with hot tea, and so chai-pakoda. Even though I have mine with coffee and bread-malai. Odd combination, but mine.
So here it is. My humble atte ki pakodi, in 4 easy steps.
Step 1. Slice onions and potatoes thinly, but not so thin that they melt in oil.
Step 2. Add enough atta to cover it — say about half a cup for one onion and one potato.
Step 3. Add carom seeds, whole read chilli (broken), salt, and little water. Mix.
Step 4.Fry in mustard oil until crisp.
Note: The trick is to add little water and little atta. Too much flour makes the mixture soak oil, too much water makes it soft and runny. You can add 1-2 whole chillies broken into two for one cup atta, or more if you like. They are really hot so be careful. Ideally there is nothing else needed these pakodis and they are not eaten with chutney or ketchup since the chilli adds enough punch.