At the end of each month, we had a cherished ritual in our home: my mom, who used to be a teacher, would go to the local government office in our small town to collect her and her staff’s pay check. On the way back home, she would stop at the halwai shop which the equivalent of local bakery. Halwai is someone who is an expert in making Indian sweets called mithai. My mom would buy paneer pakoras and a mithai called shena murghi. This was a special occasion so all of us kids eagerly awaited the end of the month.
Perhaps, this is one the reasons that I love paneer pakoras. Especially the paneer pakoras with a filling. However, the recipe for making paneer pakoras with a filling has always been a secret (or atleast it was when I was a kid). Just like traditional bakers, halwais protected the secret of their recipes handed down over the generations from father to son. Yes, halwais mostly always have been men and still are for the majority. Given that no halwai was willing to divulge their secret, I came up a recipe for my own filling using mint, onions, salt and mango powder. And I am proud to admit that it’s pretty good, perhaps even better than the halwais..?
But what is a paneer pakora? Paneer is Indian cottage cheese and pakora is a fritter made using black chickpeas flour called besan. The recipe for making paneer pakoras is pretty easy. Slice the paneer in cubes, add the mint filling and dip the cubes in besan batter and fry until golden brown. I serve them with tamarind and mint chutney and I always have an easy crowd pleaser at the parties. Now go and fry them up!