Vegetable Fritters in Chick-Pea Batter with Three Dipping Sauces


There is nary a gathering with my Indian friends that does not offer a big platter of pakoras, or vegetable fritters. As the guests arrive, someone is in the kitchen frying the fritters while engaging in light conversation. Tempura was introduced to Japan and India in the 16th century via early Portuguese missionaries and sea traders. The word tempura means both the technique for the batter frying and from the Latin word tempora, which referred to the holy days when Catholics eat no meat. Fritters are an excellent way to use seasonal vegetables by dipping them into a batter, but have a bad reputation because of their need to be deep-fried.  But in this recipe they are conveniently cooked in a frying pan with less oil.  You could use clarified butter (ghee), sesame oil, avocado oil, or safflower oil for the deep frying instead of the peanut or canola oils in the recipe. Use a combination of vegetables; other suggestions include whole okra, carrot slices, potatoes, or sweet snap peas in the pod.

Vegetable fritters are an excellent savory side dish with a made-ahead yogurt sauce, known as a raita, designed to cool your palate, a tangy ginger lime soy sauce, and a really zingy fresh chutney with ginger, cilantro and mint that you only need a nab of. If you don’t have time to make one or all of the sauces, offer a bowl or sour cream or crème fraîche and lime wedges. If you have not cooked with chickpea flour before, a staple in both Indian and Mediterranean cuisines, you have a treat; it has a fabulously delicious flavor. Many recipes heavily spice the batter with garam masala, cilantro, coriander, crushed chiles, etc., but this version is rather simple and embellish with the sauces later. Brown mustard seeds and the chickpea (besan) flour are available in ethnic markets. The batter is gluten-free.

Vegetable Fritters in Chick-Pea Batter with Three Dipping Sauces

Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Few splashes Tabasco sauce or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 cups (1 pint) plain yogurt

Soy-Lime Dipping Sauce

Three 1-inch slices ginger, peeled and grated to make 3 tablespoons

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Green Chutney Sauce

Two 1-inch slices ginger, peeled

1 Anaheim green chile pepper, cored and seeded

2 bunches fresh cilantro, leaves only

1/2 bunch fresh mint, leaves only

Juice of 3 fresh limes

1 tablespoon olive oil or almond oil

1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

3/4 teaspoon whole brown mustard seed

1 1/4 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour or rice flour

1/4 cup white rice flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup cold club soda or plain sparkling water, or plain water

1 tablespoon oil


1 red bell pepper, stemmed, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch strips

3 ounces medium green beans (about 15), stem end trimmed

8 slices 1/3-inch thick slender Asian eggplant, ends trimmed

8 slices 1/4-inch thick sliced yam, peeled or unpeeded, ends trimmed

1/4 pound zucchini, ends trimmed, cut on the diagonal into 1/3-inch slices

About 2 cups small broccoli flowerettes or cauliflowerettes, cut in half

About 2 cups peanut oil, organic canola oil, or grapeseed oil, for frying

Make the yogurt sauce. Add the salt, spices, and Tabasco to the yogurt in its container. Stir with a whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate until serving. Makes 2 cups. Make the soy-lime sauce. Stir together the ginger, soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, and sugar. Mixture will be thin. Cover. The sauces can be made 1 to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

Make the green chutney. Place the ginger and chile in a food processor; pulse a few times to finely chop. With the machine running, add the cilantro and mint until finely minced.  Add the lime juice, oil, and taste for salt. Will still have a texture, not a full purée. Transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate until serving. Best served the day it is made.  Makes 1 cup.

To make the batter, place the seeds in a dry skillet and toast, shaking the pan so as not to burn. Place in a mixing bowl. Add the flours, salt and baking soda. Add the yogurt, club soda or water, and oil, whisking until almost smooth and slightly thicker than heavy cream. Add more flour or liquid so that the batter is thick like pancake batter.

To fry the vegetables. Line a platter or baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.  Place the vegetables to the side of the stove and the bowl of batter. Heat a few tablespoons oil to make 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep, in a heavy deep, straight-sided skillet or wok until very hot, almost to the smoking stage; the oil must fizzle (365ºF/190ºC on a deep fry thermometer). Working with 6 to 8 to 10 pieces of vegetables at a time, dip each piece into the batter and stir until just coated; let the excess drain off, then drop the batter-coated vegetables into the skillet.  Do not overcrowd; add more oil if you like. You want to keep the oil temperature constant. Fry until the edges start to brown, turn over with a metal pancake turner, and fry on the other side, about 1 to 2 1/2 minutes each side; they cook fast.  Fritters will be crispy and deep golden brown in spots.  You will need to turn them over a few times. Remove with a slotted spoon, chopsticks, or tongs to the platter to drain (they can be kept warm in a 250º oven). Using a long handled strainer, remove excess bits of fried batter to keep the oil clean.  Add more oil to the skillet for the next batch of fritters. Continue until all the vegetables are fried, adjusting the heat to maintain the oil temperature. Once the vegetables are all done, start serving so they are fresh as possible. Best made the same day it is to be served, 1 to 4 hours ahead. Place the dipping sauces in individual bowls to serve with the warm fritters. Makes about 30 fritters, serves 8