Delhi’s best deep-fried vegetarian pakodas.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Some dishes are unlucky to be ghettoized with a certain kind of weather. For some reason pakodas are romanticized with rain. As the sky darkens, cooks dutifully cut the vegetables, coat them in chickpea batter and start deep-frying them. But Delhi’s average annual rainfall of 611 mm is hardly sufficient for pakoda aficionados. The Khandani Pakodiwalla, on the Ring-Road Sarojini Nagar intersection, however, is frying pakodis daily since 1962, come monsoon or drought. It was started by the grandfather of Omprakash, the current owner. Khandani loosely means ancestral in Hindi.
If you want death by pakodas, you must come to this stall. The counter shelves are stuffed with pakodas. The table behind is covered with pakodas. The floor too is taken over by basketful of pakodas. The air is rich with the aroma of pakodas.
There are 11 varieties including cauliflower, lotus root, spinach, potato, green chilli, onion, paneer and bread. Served with pale green chutney, the bread pakoda is rectangular, the onion pakoda is round and the cauliflower pakoda is lumpy. One variety is called ‘seekh kebab’, which is a deep fried roll of channa daal, green peas and potato. Despite being treated with piquant spices like ajwain, fenugreek and cumin, the cauliflower pakoda retains the vegetable’s delicious raw flavour. The onion pakoda is like a city secret; a pleasant surprise enclosed within the everyday trappings of the world. Beneath the golden brown crust sits the whole onion, translucent and sweet.
Watching the pakoda-makers in action is engrossing. He picks the seasoned round slices of the egg-plant, dips them in the batter and fries them in a karahi of hot bubbling oil. His hands move like a drummer who is now beating the drum, now banging on the cymbal, now striking the tambourine. A virtuoso performance.
Take your pick