Pakora Curry (Dahi Besan Curry Recipe)

Pakora Curry (Dahi Besan Curry Recipe) Recipe

Pakora curry are fried dumplings made of a mixture of chickpea (besan) flour and spices soaked in a yogurt-based (dahi in Urdu) sauce. The dish is fairly easy to assemble.

It's one of my father-in-law's favorite dishes, and I was determined to learn how to make it. My husband Lulu's aunt, Sara, gave me the directions over the phone, so I was able to follow her step by step instructions. I served this curry with steamed basmati rice.


Yields: 8 servings

3/4 cup chickpea flour, sifted
½ teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
2 teaspoons chopped yellow onions
1-¼ teaspoons red chili powder
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon baking powder (optional)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
3 cups plain whole yogurt
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, freshly ground
8 curry leaves, halved
1 quart peanut oil (or regular vegetable oil), as needed


Making pakora:

In a mixing bowl, stir together ½ cup chickpea flour, baking powder (if used), ¼ teaspoon chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, garam masala and salt. Add the chopped onions and a little cold water to the dry ingredients and whisk until incorporated. It should have the consistency of pancake batter.

Layer a cooling rack, previously lined with paper towels if you like, on top of a baking sheet (for easy clean-up of the drained oil).

In a large Dutch oven (or any regular deep-fryer), heat the oil for about 2 minutes over high heat. There should be at least a 2-inch-high level of oil. Wait until the oil is slightly bubbly (not too hot).

Test the oil by dropping a teaspoon of pakora batter into the hot oil. It should float but not swell.

Place about 2-3 teaspoons of pakora batter in the hot oil. Repeat the same procedure for the rest of the fritters.

Place the pakora one at a time in the hot oil; cook up to 5 pakora per batch.

Fry in batches. Make sure the pakora don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium. Deep fry for 2-3 minutes per batch. The fritters will start to pop and increase in volume. Use a splatter screen to prevent the oil from jumping everywhere . Flip each piece using a spider skimmer and cook for about a minute more until golden on both sides.

Delicately lift each fritter, draining as much oil as possible and transfer them to the cooling rack. Set aside.

Making the dahi besan curry sauce:

In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining besan flour with the yogurt. Season with ½ teaspoon red chili powder, ground coriander and the remaining turmeric powder. Mix well.

In a large saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the ginger garlic paste. Once it is fragrant, add the yogurt mixture and 1 quart of water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt. If the mixture is too thick, you can add up to 2 cups of additional water.

Add the pakora into the dahi besan sauce and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Stir gently to prevent the fritters from falling apart. Adjust seasoning.

This next step is called baghar (see tips). In a small sauce pan, add 2 tablespoons oil. Once the oil is hot, add the remaining cumin seeds. As cumin seeds change color, add the curry leaves. The curry leaves will start popping in the hot oil. Pause for 10 seconds, then transfer the hot oil and spices to the pakora curry. Cover with a lid.

Serve with basmati rice.

Bon appétit!


Add just a small amount of turmeric powder so as not to alter the flavor of the batter. It's used as a natural food coloring to make the curry dish look more vibrant.

Chickpea flour is common in savory dishes in Indian cuisine and is the main ingredient in paratha, a flat Indian bread.

You could also replace the yogurt with buttermilk. I buy Bulgarian cultured buttermilk at a local Middle Eastern market. If you live in the Bay Area, check out the Rose Market -1060 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94040.

For optimum results when heating the frying oil, the thermometer should register 345°F to 360°F. Heat the oil over medium to high heat (for a nice golden color).

Indian cuisine always calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

Baghar is a very common step toward the end of cooking in many Indian dishes. I use a small 0.3-quart saucepan that I use exclusively for baghar.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 9, 2011.


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