Indian Dishes

Fish Pakoras: Spiced Up Fish Fry Recipe {Gluten-Free!}

Today was chilly, rainy, and gloomy.  It was the kind of day that requires a steaming glass of chai and a plate full of pakoras (spiced, battered and fried vegetable or meat fritters).

My family loves all pakoras–but no one loves them more than my toddler, Arjun. He’s absolutely crazy for them! So much so that I actually nicknamed him “Pakora.”

His favorite are made with cauliflower (gobi). I prefer eggplant (beguni) and Piyush likes pakora made from moong dal. But because I had a few fish fillets in the fridge that needed to be eaten, today we enjoyed fish pakoras.

When my inlaws were visiting here a few years ago, Maa would occasionally fry tilapia fillets and we’d have them for lunch or tiffin. They were delicious. Simple, but packed full of flavor. I was pregnant with Arjun at the time and couldn’t get enough!

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There are so many ways to make pakoras. Some use many spices and others use minimal masala. One family may prefer their pakoras with a thick, chewy batter, whereas another may like a thin, crunchy coating.

There’s no wrong way, really, and the options are endless!

This recipe is loosely based on the fried fish Maa would often serve us. The batter is made with besan (chickpea) flour  {{Gluten Free!}} and I’ve flavored it with nigella seeds.

Nigella seeds are also called kalonji or onion seeds and can be found online or at your nearest Indian grocer.  They’re one of my favorite spices and I use them quite a lot in my recipes. I’m not really sure how to describe the flavor–it’s unique. Kind of like onions and a little bit like oregano, maybe?

I’ve used tilapia for my fish pakoras mostly because it’s readily available and fairly inexpensive. We like to use the tilapia fillets found in the frozen section at Costco. They taste really nice and have no yucky smell. Truthfully, I think they taste more fresh than the fish sold in the cases at our local supermarkets.

If you don’t like tilapia, choose another firm, whitefish. Cod, haddock, and pollack are good choices. Here, in Minnesota, we also love to fry local walleye, bass or crappie.

If you’re looking for a simple, yet special, fish recipe that even your kids will love–try making fish pakoras!

They’re the perfect, spiced up, alternative to the “All American” fish fry.

Fish Pakora (Bengali Inspired Fish Fry)

  • Servings: 4, as snack
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Fish Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Tilapia filets*
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp. ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder (less or more, per your taste)
  • small handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • salt, enough to lightly season the fish
  • ground, black pepper, as needed
Batter Ingredients:
  • 1 cup besan (chickpea) flour
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nigella seeds (also called kalonji or black onion seeds)
  • water, as needed
  • oil, for frying*
  • chaat masala, to garnish (optional)
Directions:
  • Rinse the filets and pat dry. Cut the filets into pieces, a couple inches-or so-in size.
  • Put the turmeric powder, ginger and garlic pastes, coriander powder, chili powder, coriander leaves, salt and pepper into a bowl large enough to marinate the fish pieces. Add the lemon juice and stir everything to make a paste.
  • Put the fish into the bowl with the marinade and rub the paste onto all the pieces as evenly as possible. Set aside while you make the batter.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the besan, baking soda, turmeric, salt, and nigella seeds. Whisk in a little water at a time, until your batter is similar the the consistancy of pancake batter. If it’s a bit thick or thin, it won’t cause much of a problem, but will determine how crispy your pakoras are.
  • Heat enough oil for deep frying in a heavy bottomed pot.  Once the oil is hot, dunk pieces of the marinated fish into the batter and then into the pot of oil.
  • Fry until pieces are golden on the outside and cooked on the inside.  Cooking time will vary, depending on the size of your fish and your cooking temperature.  Test a piece to ensure the fish is cooked and the batter is not still raw. Adjust temperature, if necessary.
  • Remove the fish with a slotted spoon (not plastic!–trust me, I’ve made that mistake!) and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  • Once all the fish is fried, sprinkle with chaat masala, sliced onions and additional chopped coriander leaves.
  • Enjoy with tartar sauce or coriander chutney and a steaming glass of chai!
Notes:
  • We like to use tilapia filets found in the frozen section at Costco. They taste really nice and have no yucky smell. I find them to taste more fresh than the fish sold in the cases at our local supermarkets.
  • If you don’t like tilapia, choose another firm, whitefish. Cod, haddock, and pollack are good choices. Here, in Minnesota, we also love to fry local walleye.
  • We typically fry our pakoras in sunflower or peanut oil.

 

www.spicedupmom.com

As always, if you make the recipe, I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know in the comments below.

If you like this recipe and would like to see more posts like this, I’d appreciate if you commented, liked and shared! 😀 👍 ❤️

2 thoughts on “Fish Pakoras: Spiced Up Fish Fry Recipe {Gluten-Free!}

    1. Thank you for the tip, Sanna!
      I noticed when I was in Kerala, the chefs seemed to use vinegar often when they were cooking fish. The fish was so fresh, I never really considered that it was to help with the smell.

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