Hot Pakoras for a Rainy Day


Do you remember the magic of the first rain?

If you ever lived in India, you most certainly would. Unlike here in the United States, where it rains any time of the year, India has a specific monsoon season between June and October when the skies pour without restraint for nearly four months. But that’s it. Come November you’re not likely to see another drop of rain for eight months.

So you can imagine what a wonderful treat the first rainfall of the year is. When those first drops drizzle down, they transform the whole landscape. Every surface, caked thick with dust and pollution over the preceding winter and summer, looks freshly washed. The leaves of the mango trees sparkle, their deep-emerald green almost a surprise. The dusty, dry earth turns red and sends out a musky-sweet fragrance. Even the fading apartment buildings, crammed back-to-back, look newer and brighter, at least for a while.

As children, that first rain brought us a license to get unabashedly drenched.

My mom would allow my brother and me – in fact she’d push us- to go out and play in the first rain. We’d scream at the top of our lungs and laugh and dance along with other children from the neighborhood, all of us soaked to the teeth. Even some of the less restrained adults would join in. For once, no one cared that we’d ruin our clothes or catch a cold or slip and fall. The first rain was a miracle to be enjoyed with all the heart we had in us.

In the days that followed, of course, the umbrellas and raincoats and waterproof shoes were dusted off and put into mandatory circulation. The most we could fool around in the rain after that was to hold our hands out the window and catch the falling raindrops as we chanted:
Ye re ye re pausa
Tula deto paisa
(Translated from Marathi, Come, come rain, and I’ll give you a penny.)

The rain was, of course, a mixed blessing. There were days when it brought the city to a grinding halt, and then everyone spent a good deal of time cursing it.

The other day, as I walked to my car in an unusually heavy Washington downpour, every passing car drenched me with water that had collected on the sides of the street. Even as I muttered and ranted under my breath, my quirky mind skipped back to those times when the rains used to be more fun than bother.

Then and there I decided to put the fun back into my rainy day by cooking up a classic snack invented, I think, for exactly such an occasion: a plate of spicy, hot pakoras with cilantro chutney and a cup of steaming chai.

I rushed home, got out of my wet clothes, and ran straight to the kitchen. I almost couldn’t wait until the pakoras were ready, but boy, were they worth the half hour or so it took to make them! The deep-frying makes the vegetables velvety-tender, and that, contrasted with the bright crunch of the chickpea coating, is to die for.

This is a rather traditional recipe that’s been used for generations – with some variations – by Indian cooks. To dunk the pakoras, I made a coriander-coconut chutney that’s also quite traditional. You can even dunk your pakoras in ketchup if you don’t want to be bothered with making chutney: I think they taste great with either.
So the next time you run into a rainy day anywhere in the world, try making these to put the sunshine back into your day. But first, if you dare, let your hair down, toss away the umbrella, and get drenched. Just for the heck of it.

Onion and Cabbage Pakoras
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
  • About 2 cups of finely sliced onions and cabbage (use any proportion you wish)
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds + 1 tbsp ajwain seeds, coarsely ground
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste (I usually add a little extra because the flavors do mellow down after deep frying)
  • ½ cup finely minced coriander leaves
  • A generous pinch of baking soda
  1. Mix together all the ingredients and add just enough water so they hold together.
  2. Heat oil, about 1½ inches deep, in a pan.
  3. When the oil reaches about 350-375 degrees, lower the heat to about medium and drop about a tablespoon of the mixture, one at a time, into the oil. Don't worry about shaping the pakoras which should be rather shapeless. Also, don't crowd the pan.
  4. Deep-fry each pakora on both sides until golden-brown. This should take 4-5 minutes. If they brown too fast, lower the heat because the outside will get cooked and the inside will remain raw.

The chutney I made is very like the one in this older post, so I won’t write it up again.

Enjoy, everyone!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Hey! You are making me nostalgic for the rains and its not all that long back that they got over:)! Nice post and yes – there is nothing like hot pakoras, bhajiyas etc for a rainy day:), and chutney ho saath mein to bas MASSSSSST!

  2. says

    hi Vaishali, what a lovely post! Nothing beats hot pakodas with chai on a rainy day, and yes, the ‘maza’ is when you have been out in the rain getting wet. Yours looks perfect, and I must confess I have never had them the traditional way with coconut chutney. I will try the combo next time I make pakodas. I so wish it would rain in Mumbai now just so that I could get an excuse to make them. Unfortunately, this year it is still so hot despite being mid-December:-(

  3. says

    Pass it over V,its snowing here.Lovely and perfect on rainy and nowadays snowy days.I do not wait for the dip most of the time.Fry it,fill yourself is my thing.I love winter/rainy season bcoz it is when I can gorge on these guilt free.I believe deep frying/oil is good in winter :)

  4. says

    I love the first drop of rain which brings up the earth smell! If the sky pours for days it bother me but once in a while I like to wet with my son here :)
    Hmmm crunchy pakodas are bliss!

  5. says

    not fair-it’s almost 1 AM and now I am so so hungry. But CAN’T go to the local mart because it’s snowing so bad.

    But I can smell the spices on this one in my head.

  6. Rachel says

    Oh my!!! A bunch of the PPKers went to Sukhadias in Edison, NJ and were so thrilled by the amazing pakoras we had fresh from the oven.

    I know we all crave these. Thanks for posting the lovely recipe, which is perfect for the first real snowy day here in NJ!

  7. says

    An indian can go out of India. But one can never take India out of the heart of an Indian! Vaishali…missing Mumbai rain, aroma of wet earth and pakodas! Pakodas come out more crunchy if you add little bit of rice flour, and hardly any water. Just leave mixture for few minutes. Water from the onions will be enough. Rupa

  8. says

    Nice post,brought back memories of Bombay rains and my school days when I used to take every opportunity to get drenched in the rains…..the pakoras look yummy,perfect for any rainy day…I add a little rice flour to the batter to make it crunchier too, just as someone ahead of me has mentioned !

  9. says

    Hot pakoras in the rainy season needs only one more thing, in my book. And that’s a hot cup of masala chai.:)
    I love the smell of the earth after the first rain. And I remember my daughter when she was 4, insisting on standing in our balcony and getting drenched doing a crazy dance full of joy.

    Best wishes for the festive season and a Happy New Year.

  10. says

    wow.. crispy hot Onion pakoras.. They look great.. I remember my amma making something hot and crispy during the rains. It was so much fun to eat them and listen to the rain. The power cut due to which we cousin’s and my uncles got together and had a great time 😀

  11. says

    The only thing that can substitute a plate of hot pakoras with Chai is steaming hot samosas….but they take up toooooo long to be done,so my impatient mind always choose fritters since they are done in jiffy…..and so many varieties too, onion ,bread,brinjal,typical sindhi sanna pakora yummmmmmm i am missing rains here, but still i can’t let you have them alone(it bad manners isn’t it?)so let me join the fun and considering it is raining at ur side, i am making some hot pakoras here,just to give u a company(not that i Really want to have them he he he he)
    And yeah ketchup doesnt do justice to the pakoras,chutneys are excellent to dump them ,urs look temptingly yum

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