Bitter Gourd Fritters (Pakodas) –These are mind bogglingly delicious. Crispy, crunchy with a hint of softness, a touch of sweetness and a slight bitter taste (the good kind) that lingers on the tongue.Do you like Bitter Gourd? I usually have them sautéed but have you tried them fried? Deep fried? Does the saying, “everything tastes good fried”, come to mind? In this case, it’s certainly true.
Bitter gourd/Pagarkai (Tamil)/Karela (Hindi)/Bitter melon, is one of those really green, good-for-you-fruits (yes, its a fruit not a vegetable), like kale, that your mother puts on your plate because they are chock full of iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C. Its juice is used in medicine for maintaining blood sugar, boosting the immune system, lowering bad cholesterol, cleansing the liver and many more.
They are very popular in Indian, Chinese and Japanese cuisine. In India, it is often accompanied by yogurt or coconut to lower the bitterness. This is my Mom’s recipe and I can say for sure, she’s been holding out on me. I am sure, it has been eaten deep fried, but this is the first time I have tried them like this.
I used to hate bitter gourd as a child and they are still not my favorite. My husband, on the other hand loves them (he thinks grapefruit is bitter though. Go figure!). I grew to tolerate them as I grew up, as in, if there is nothing else…….
These fritters, however, I couldn’t stop popping in my mouth. They are so so good! And pairs beautifully with Tomato Chutney.
I used a mandoline slicer Mandoline Slicer w/ 5 Blades – Vegetable Slicer – Food Slicer – Vegetable Cutter – Cheese Slicer – Vegetable Julienne Slicer with 5 Surgical Grade Stainless Steel Blades (White) to slice the bitter gourd and onions thin. A knife would the job too.
- 4 Cups thinly sliced Bitter gourd/ Pagarkai/Karela
- 1 Cup thinly sliced yellow Onion
- 3/4 Cup Chick pea flour (Bengalgram flour)
- 1/4 Cup Rice flour
- 1/2 teaspoon Coriander powder (dhania)
- 1/4 teaspoon Cumin powder (jeera)
- 1/2 teaspoon red Chilli powder (use according to your spice level)
- 1 teaspoon Garam masala
- 3/4 Tablespoon Salt + 1/4 Tablespoon more
- 1/2 Liter/ 500ml Peanut/ Vegetable Oil (Use oil with high smoking point)
- Heat oil in a heavy pot or deep fryer to 375 F.
- Using the mandolin slicer or knife, thinly slice the washed bitter gourd and onion separately.
- Lay the bitter gourd on paper towels and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt on them. Bitter gourds have water in them, the salt will draw the water out and the paper towels will absorb them. Don’t miss this step! Or your fritter will be soggy.
- Now combine all the ingredients in a bowl together. The water from onions and bitter gourd is enough to dampen the ingredients.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by dropping a teaspoon of the mixture gently into the hot oil. You should see bubbles and hear crackling sounds and fritter should float to the top within seconds. Your oil is hot enough. Otherwise keep heating and repeat till it’s hot enough.
- Drop in a tablespoon of mixture into the oil. I was able to make 5 fritters at a time. And I used a small pot (see picture).
- Fry the fritters till they are beautifully brown and crispy. You will not achieve total color on the bitter gourd but you will be able gauge the color by the onions which will turn delicious golden brown.
- Remove from the oil and drain the fritters on either paper towels or on metal grills.Toss the fritters with a little salt (sprinkle) when they are still hot. Repeat from step 6 till all the mixture is fried. Serve
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