Whether you call them bhajjias, the western Indian term, or pakoras, more common in the north, Indian fritters tend to be bits of vegetable dunked in a simple chickpea-flour batter and fried. The idea is to cook the vegetable in the time it takes to get the coating as crisp as possible, which depends on correctly gauging the thickness of the pieces of vegetable to be fried. Bhajjias are one of Bombay’s favorite snack foods, at home or on the streets.

The recipe works perfectly well with ordinary water but is even better if you use soda water instead of tap water. Nalini Swali of Bombay gave me this surprising tip, specifying a brand of local soda water that has finer, denser bubbles than others. Make sure that what you’re planning to fry is very dry before you dip it into the batter; this is especially important for leafy vegetables.


  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 cups fizzy mineral water or club soda
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • Any combination of the following, in quantities sufficient for 6 to 8 fritters per person: well-dried spinach or amaranth leaves; Chinese or Japanese eggplant, cut into ¼-inch-thick ovals; onion rings; potatoes or sweet potatoes in ¼-inch-thick slices; summer squash or pumpkin, sliced no thicker than ¼ inch; lotus root, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices and blanched; Cuban oregano; cauliflower, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices


  • Sift together all the flour, the baking soda, and the salt. Mix with enough mineral water to make a batter the consistency of heavy cream. Leave it on the thick side until you test-fry a piece or two of vegetable.
  • Pour enough oil into a deep saucepan, wok, or karhai to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking, 360 to 370 degrees. Dip 1 trial piece into the batter, shaking off the excess, and drop into the hot oil. Repeat. Do not crowd the pan; fry in batches as necessary, turning once. Cooking times will vary depending on the main ingredient; test-fry one or two until you get a feel for the technique. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and serve hot.