Potato & Onion Pakora – With Cumin, Fennel And Black Salt

Typical Christmas eve in Spain: meet frineds for drinks around eight, home for family dinner at ten, out again by two (am), breakfast in the town square, bed, then . . . that was last year.

This year we’re experiencing reduced staying-power and early nights, the effects of not drinking since before Easter. Even so, I set the alarm to be up in time to prepare Christmas brunch – just in case.

  • air-fried onion and purple potato pakora
  • sweet tomato and black mustard relish
  • salted cucumber with dehydrated fermented persamons
  • south Indian sambhar
  • two poached eggs on buttered rye sourdough toast
  • with alcohol-free lager
  • and chocloate brownies. It is Christmas

Pakora and her cousin the bhajee have much in common – cut vegetables, sundry spices and gram (chickpea) flour. But there is a difference:

  • vegetables are dunked in a batter of gram flour and water for the soft and fluffy bhajee.
  • pakora uses no water except that drawn from the vegetables by salt.  The moisture is then absorbed by dry gram-flour to create crisp perfection.

I was aware of the difference, but the fact was brought home by Shams Mir, the curry queen of Walthamstow, who fed us these beauties at our pre Christmas get-together. Speechless (or talking too much?).

Shams also re-connected us with the Himalayan sulphuric black salt which gives our pakora wings. If you’ve never inhaled the vapours from an active volcano, now’s your chance. Really, you gotta try it!

onion and potato Indian pakora

Potato & Onion Pakora

Pakora is the crispy version of the bhajee. The vegetables are lightly salted and left to stand a few minutes to extract some of their juice, which is then mopped up with a little chickpea flour. Whole fennel and cumin seed add aroma, while vapours from black salt and asafoetida (hing) lift it to high heaven.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Cuisine Indian, street-food, vegan
Servings 16 pakora


  • 2 large potatoes julienned or coarsely grated
  • 2 large onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp salt (to taste) black rock salt is especially good here - grind a little in a mortar and pestle
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp gram (chick-pea) flour
  • a few drops of water if needed
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional) for a soft, fluffy centre with all of the outer crispness
  • oil for frying or invest in an air-fryer


  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 5-6 black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 large pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • 2-3 fresh bird's-eye (Thai) chillies thinly sliced, de-seeded or whole (optional)


  • Use the coarse grater or julienne attachement of your food processor to process the potatoes. I keep the skins on.
  • OR manually grate or julienne the spuds with whatever implement you have to hand. Shams used a spiralizer for her pakora. Brilliant!
  • Thinly slice the onions either by hand or in your food processor
  • Mix the onions and potatoes in a large bowl and sprinkle on the salt
  • Leave to stand for 5 minutes for the salt to draw out some of the juices
  • Taste some of the onion. If it's too salty run a handful of the vegetables under the tap. Or add a little more salt to get the seasoning to your taste
  • Add the chillies, cumin, fennel and hing. There's no need to pre-roast the spices as they'll release all their flavour in the frying process
  • Add in the gram flour a spoonful at a time, mixing it in well with a spoon or your free hand until the mixture just holds together. If the mixture looks dry use splash on a few drops of water witth your fingers

Fry The Pakora In Oil

  • Add tablespoon of the mixture to medium hot oil. Your pakoras should start to sizzle immediately, otherwise the oil is not hot enough. Conversely, If the oil is smokling wildly, turn down the flame and wait for it to cool
  • Fry, turning occasionally until golden on all sides

Air-Fry The Pakora

  • Placing the raw pakora directly on the wire trays will not work. Use lightly oiled greasproof parchment cut to size or silicon mesh over the trays
  • Drop tablespoon-fulls of pakora mix on the trays and "fry" at 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes in total.
  • After 5-7 minutes turn the pakoras over carefully, Discard the baking parchment at this stage so both surfaces are exposed to the drying heat.
  • Swap the bottom-most and top-most trays over as needed half way through cooking


Serve with your favourite relish or pickle and a crisp vegetable side.
For a complete protein-rich meal follow with any number of vegetable dishes accompanied by rice, millet or rotis using flour from your favourite grain. Or try South Indian rice-and-lentil ferments such as dosa or idli for that extra-special touch.
Keyword chickpea, chilli, fried, Indian, pulses, snack, spicy, street-food, vegan, vegetarian

5 Replies to “Potato & Onion Pakora – With Cumin, Fennel And Black Salt”

  1. 5 stars
    WOW Mahadev, what an awesome recipe! After first mentally ‘tasting the recipe’ by reading it & combining the choice ingredients & flavours in my ‘rasa sharira’ (Sanskrit for ‘taste body’ – lol ??) I decided to re-read it (MY way of getting the full scrumptious experience INSTANTLY without having to wait until I’ve actually made them myself! Ha! – ‘Dry-frying’ – excellent tip! The black salt sounds essential somehow… I’ll definitely have a go at this – thanks for your inspiration!

    1. The beauty of “rasa sharira” degustation is that it’s calorie-free. Check out the spicy tomato relish that follows. And have a lovely Christmas and best 2019. Oh, and thanks for all your inspiring and motivating facebook posts. Please keep them coming. Love from Mahadev xx

      1. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for ‘calorie-free rasa sharira degustation’ (love that term 🙂 however, frankly, it’s not my favourite long-term approach to Indian delicacies lol- and I see you’ve got some more very intriguing treats lined up here for me to try out! My favourite veggie of the moment is (organic) jackfruit (by Biona in a tin) – I make a yummy quite spicy jackfruit curry with sweet potato / chickpeas / red peppers & coriander etc 🙂 – I could let you have the recipe if you’re interested – and I’m wondering if you might have some other India inspired jackfruit recipes waiting to be shared? Just a thought… 🙂 Meanwhile, wishing you guys a blessed & joyful New Year! – May 2019 manifest ALL your Hearts’ Desires! Much love ~ Ros / Sivakami X x

        1. Your Jackfruit recipe sounds fantastic. Do let me have that by and I’ll post it here crediting it to you, obviously. In theory you should be able to subscribe to our blog and contribute recipes, but I’m not sure of the mechanics of that yet so try emailing it: cranial-osteopath@hotmail.com. I will be posting a Sri Lankan mallung with jackfruit later, but I’ll hold off for now as I’ve lots of other stuff I can share. LOL for 2019. Let’s keep all our shariras happy xx

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