Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bhindi Pakora/Croquette

The year was 1989, I was at Temple Square Mangaluru, celebrating the annual Okuli following the Car Festival, rejoicing with few friends. My Bank mate and cousin Kudpi Ganesh Shenoy offered me some fried snack which he got from a nearby stall. They looked like nuggets but he said it is 'Bhindi Bajia/Bhenda Bajo/Pakora', a kind of fritters made with chopped Okra and gram flour. I popped couple of them into my mouth and started chewing. I went on chewing them for about 5 minutes, but could not gulp them! I also felt terribly thirsty, and I ran to nearby Soda shop and guzzled down a cold soda to push the stuff down my throat. Then I told my cousin, "I can not forget your favour man! Henceforth I should avoid eating Bhindi Bajia!" He smiled and said they are made like that, with overgrown bhindi. I was shocked to know that, for it was the first time I tasted them in my life, and they were tough and fibrous!

Later, I started visiting Balli's Podi shop where I found better Bhindi Pakoras made with tender okras. I also found very good pakoras at Kusum Caterers' Podi joint in Lower Car Street. I developed a liking for them, and started buying them whenever I visited car Street.

I have been thinking about making Bhindi Pakoras at home the way they make it in car Street, but somehow that plan didn't materialise. The other day Meena had made Bhindi Upkari for dinner, and I asked her if we have some left over bhindi. She said yes, but she had a doubt whether they suffice my requirement in making pakoras. I too found the quantity of bhindi insufficient. Then an idea struck me, and I took out the Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage and a piece of carrot resting in the fridge. I also took last remaining sprigs of the onion shoot left over from making noodles and Butter Garlic Squid last week. Adding them all together, mixing in some masalas, chillies and coriander leaves, I mixed in gram flour and rice flour to make a stiff dough, which I shaped like croquettes instead of nuggets and deep fried to get an awesome starter snack. 

Here is that fantastic snack which tastes almost like seekh kebabs and has lots of flavours. They turn out soft inside and crisp outside, easy to bite into. Not at all chewy like the ones I had on that Okuli day in 1989, I guarantee you! You can serve them with sweet mint chutney or with ketchup if you are having them with cocktails, mocktails, or as a tea time snack. They also taste good when served as a side dish with rice and daalithove. 
Tender Okra(Bhindi) - 1 cup finely chopped
Bok Choy/Cauliflower/Cabbage/Palak leaf - 1 Cup finely chopped
Coriander leaves - 1/2 Cup, finely chopped
Spring Onion Greens(Optional) - 1/4 Cup, finely chopped
Carrot - Grated or finely chopped, a handful
Green Chillies - 3 finely chopped
Ginger - 1/2 Inch finely minced(or ginger paste 1/2 Tsp)
Salt - 1/2 Tsp(or to taste)
Gram Flour(Besan) - 1/2 Cup
Rice Flour - 2 Tbsp
Red Hot Chilli Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/8 Tsp
Coriander Powder - 2 Tsp
Cumin Powder - 1/2 Tsp
Chaat Masala - 1 Tsp
Oil - For deep frying

Heat oil in a deep frying pan until it starts to fume.
Simmer and keep the flame on.
Keep a bowl of water ready.
Take all the chopped veggies in a mixing bowl.
Add the powders and a tablespoon of hot oil.
Mix well, sprinkle two to three tablespoon of water and make a stiff but sticky dough.
Dip your fingers in the bowl of water, take lemon size dough and make a ball.
Shape the ball into a 2" long croquette.
Make 16-18 such croquettes and deep fry 4-5 at a time in hot oil on low flame for 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crisp on all sides.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve. 

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