When I’ve got a craving for a snack with a high mouth feel and belly satisfaction level, I like to have either Japanese-style tempura fritters or East Indian-style pakora fritters (link below). But being the kind of foodie that I am, I often enjoy cross-cultural world cuisine hybrid recipes. I lucked out one day with a great snack combo: shiitake onion “pakura “(pakora/tempura).
They’re easy to make, but require a deep fryer and hot oil for best results. (As always, be careful around hot oil. Minimize your distractions.) If you prefer, you can use a heavy cast iron frying pan and shallow fry the fritters. However, they will be denser, so you won’t get the light, fluffy but crispy texture. But they’re still tasty being pan-fried.
- 4 parts besan (aka chickpea flour, chana flour, or gram flour). (You can find chickpea/ gram flour in Italian markets, and besan/ chana in East/West Indian and Pakistani markets. Some large supermarkets will also have it in their international section. If you cannot find besan, grind up dried chickpeas in a coffee/ spice grinder.)
- 1 part tapioca starch or tempura mix (preferred).
- Salt + pepper to taste.
- Red pepper flake [optional].
- 1-2 parts water. The amount of water will vary. You want to form a paste that’s not too runny. It has to be able to bind the mushroom and onion filling, and stay together in the oil.
- 1 small onion, sliced into thin slivers and pieces separated.
- 4-8 canned shiitake mushrooms, sliced very thinly into strips. (If you want more texture, you could also use “wood ear” or “black fungus”. It’s available in many Asian markets in dried form. Rehydrate a few pieces in a bowl of warm water for 1 hour. Rinse, then cut into thin strips.)
- Mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a spoon or fork.
- Slowly add water until a paste, slightly thicker than pancake batter, starts to form.
- Add the sliced onion and shiitake pieces and mix thoroughly.
- Heat oil in some safe (heavy) pot or deep fryer. (If you’re using a cast-iron frying pan, just shallow fry in about a 1/4 inch of oil.)
- Carefully drop in a spoonful of batter at a time. Don’t have too many fritters going in each batch, else the oil’s temperature will drop, causing the fritters to absorb oil and become greasy.
- Fry 2-3 minutes one side, then turn over fritters using a slotted spoon and fry 1-2 minutes on the other. (While the fritters should be golden brown, keep in mind that chickpea flour is very high in protein, burns easily, and stinks when it does so. If possible, try to remove the tiny pieces of loose fried batter as soon as they are cooked or they will burn. If you are using a deep fryer, this might be a bit difficult. It’s recommended that you fry the fritters in a heavy stockpot, if you don’t have a proper deep fryer and don’t want to use a frying pan. The alternative is to not make the batter too watery. This means you have to cook the fritters a bit longer, as they will be thicker.)
- Drain on paper towel (kitchen paper).
Serve with a mixture of hot and/or sweet sauces, including chutneys, sambal oelek (hot chili paste), sriracha (smooth chili paste), plum sauce, sour cream, or onion dip.
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