sangeeta khanna’ book pakodas: Love eating bhajias on a rainy day? ‘Pakodas’ is the guide you need


In Sangeeta Khanna’s wonderful new book ‘Pakodas’, she gives a recipe for the tamatar bonda she used to have as a student in Banaras.

It is a whole tomato, scooped out and filled with a spiced potato-peanut mixture, dipped in thick besan batter and deep-fried. Watch out while eating it, she warns, presumably because deep frying in a batter seal superheats the water in the tomato to potentially palate scorching effect.

The ingredients are simple and yet you know that the results will be wonderful. The super-heated steam will meld the contents into a delectable mush that will contrast just enough with the crisp exterior — provided, of course, you judge just the right moment to munch, before the steam makes the coating soggy, but just beyond the moment it will burn your mouth.

Khanna’s book aims to dispel misconceptions about fried foods.

Making this sort of culinary calculation is part of the joy of eating the fried foods that Khanna covers in this book. Not all are eaten hot. Some are dunked into sweet or savoury liquids for new contrasts between crisp and soggy textures. Others are fried hard to allow them to be stored for later.

A few are steamed, shallow-fried, poached or sundried. But what all the pakodas share is a playfulness on the palate, a culinary capering that contrasts with the more solid satisfaction of daily dal-chawal-roti dishes. The recipes Khanna documents are meant to be enjoyed outside regular mealtimes as a treat, or if consumed with main meals, they enliven it with contrasts in texture (usually crispy but sometimes crumbly, puffy or soggy) and taste (usually spicy, but sometimes also sweet, salty or bitter, or all together as in the karela na khalwa from Gujarat).

Karela na khalwa.

And this delight in eating them is often matched by the cook’s delight in creating them. Of course, handling a vat of dangerously hot oil is hardly fun, but making pakodas that are perfectly light and dry, not greasy and heavy, calls for real culinary skill and good cooks are proud of it. There is also the skill in knowing how to cut vegetables or compress dough into just the right size for cooking, and also being creative in what you use to make pakodas.

Khanna has a section on pakodas made from leftovers, like extra rotis, rice or khichidi, and those made thriftily from vegetable peels and the grits left from milling dal. There are non-vegetarian pakodas, which makes one wonder if KFC’s success in India is being driven by chicken pakodas.

There are pakodas using different cereals and seeds and nuts, but perhaps the most extensive and interesting are the many pakodas made with flowers, wild leafy greens and lesser known vegetables, like breadfruit and even bhang leaves which she notes, non-committedly, should only be consumed in small amounts.

Sehjan ki phoolon ki pakodi.

Khanna says the book came from an article on pakodas she had written a few years back, but she has been collecting these recipes all her life. “My father’s job posted him across the country, and then my husband’s job did too, and I got exposed to all these different types of fried foods,” she says. And even before that, in her grandparents’ homes in Ghazipur and Ballia in eastern UP, they had people bringing all these seasonal foraged foods which were often cooked into pakodas.

But what really gave Khanna the passion for the project was the misconceptions she found becoming common about fried foods. “I trained as a microbiologist and was doing my PhD in anti-oxidants in food. So when I started working on nutrition issues I found so much misinformation about fried foods.”


People loved the pakodas but were not eating them because they believed that all that fat was deadly. Khanna says the opposite is true: “We need fats to keep our bodies functioning properly. The problem is refined oils which heat to really high temperatures, at which point the fats start decomposing in dangerous ways.”

Going back to traditional Indian oils, like mustard, coconut and sesame, which aren’t chemically extracted, was the answer she said. “And, of course, there is also ghee, which is wonderful!” Done correctly, deep-frying isn’t an oil sponge, and fried foods made properly produce a feeling of satiety that staves off hunger far longer. “Earlier people would have pakodas and vadai every day for breakfast, and didn’t get fat because it was so filling they didn’t have to eat much more.”

Cashew pakoda.

Khanna does caution though against eating fried street foods, which she regrets. “Street food sellers can be really creative and good at frying foods. But they reuse the oil till it starts degrading. We need to educate them on health issues.”

Perhaps the most valuable part of Khanna’s book is her survey of those dried nuggets made from paste of dal, seeds, cereals and spices that are called mungodis, vadis, bade and other names. They are linked to pakodas by the common use of dal pastes and the fact they are usually fried before being eaten (but can be steamed or boiled as well). They have long been particularly important in vegetarian dishes for adding protein as well as a textural and taste dimension.

Making them is a vanishing skill, since few people living in cities have the time or patience to knead and shape the doughs, and then painstakingly dry them during summers. Yet they can be delightful to eat and also add important levels of nutrition and taste to other dishes. “I’ve included them in the book because we really need to keep these foods alive,” says Khanna. As with her plea for fried foods, it is an appeal that is happily hard to resist………

Kick Off The Festive Season With These Easy-To-Make, Delicious Cocktails

Party Starter

6 Oct, 2018

It’s that time of the year when you can almost smell the festivity in the air, evenings are spent with family and friends over food and drinks, and parties go on till the wee hours of the morning.

And to make your celebrations all the more special, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite cocktail recipes that are sure to win your guests over.


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