Onion Pakoda (Khekada Bhaji)

If there is a snack that could find its place in the list of national integrators the pakoda would surely be it. Called by various names in different parts of India, it is a kind of fried spicy dumpling made of vegetables and Chana dal flour.

The onion pakoda is the king amongst them all and my personal favorite. An anytime snack, it is most attractive on rainy grey afternoons, cold winter days, and while on a trek, at a roadside stall - served hot with glasses of sweet steaming chai.

Khekada means crab in Marathi. These bhaji or pakodas look like crabs; hence the name.  The the onions should necessarily be pungent. Use the sweet variety, and you would wonder what the fuss as all about. In India we usually get the pinkish red variety that is fit for purpose.

Ingredients: (These are approximations. You might need to adjust according to size of onions, preference for spiciness, etc)
3 large onions
Chana dal flour / Besan (3 tbsp)
Rice flour (one tbsp)
Chilli powder
Ajwain / Owa / Carom seeds
Oil for deep frying
Chat masala for sprinkling

To make the mixture
Chop onions lengthwise into thin slices. Separate out the slices.
Add chilli powder, crushed ajwain seeds, salt to taste and mix well with the slices.
Keep for 10 minutes to let the onions 'weep' (for once!).

Do NOT add any water to the mixture. Now begin sprinkling besan over the slices and continue to mix it with your fingers. You can also add a spoonful of rice flour to make the pakodas crisper. Stop this process when the slices are well coated with the flour and the 'juice' is soaked up.  Then sprinkle a tablespoonful of very hot oil on this mixture. Helps add crunch to the pakodas.

To fry pakodas
Heat oil in a kadai (wok).
Using your fingers pick up small portions of the onion mix and gently release into the hot oil.
Fry on medium flame till golden brown. Remove onto paper to drain excess oil.

To serve
Put some of the pakodas on a plate. Sprinkle with chaat masala and chilli powder.
Taste good on their own or with crushed green chilli /mint chutney.

  • For a slightly different taste you can also try adding crushed green chilli rather than chilli powder to the initial onion mix.   
  • If you are a bit short on onions, you can add thin long slices of capsicum or cabbage to the pakoda mixture. 
  • For those of you outside India: if you cannot find Ajwain seeds in your local store, try using oregano for flavor. 

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