I grew up on a tea plantation and spent my childhood in some of the most spectacular locations in South India. The vibrant green carpets of tea, the pollution-free air, the outdoor lifestyle (hiking, fishing, swimming) and being out in the sun all day, made for a life style that is almost unheard of today. However, I had not had these pakoras till I moved to Mumbai for my college and visited a friend on the plantations quite a few years later. I have been wanting to make these again ever since. I visited Assam to go on safari at Manas National Park. Right next door to the elegant Musa Jungle Retreat is a tea plantation, it immediately brought back the lovely childhood memories. We strolled down the narrow dirt roads of the plantation one morning and I could not resist picking some tea leaves for the pakoras. These unusual pakoras, usually they are made from onions, spinach, green chilies, cauliflower and other vegetables, hit the spot. The light tannins in the leaves add a light bitterness to the fritters that are complemented by the spices and chilies. Light and elegant, these fritters are a treat anytime. Add the fresh green pepper corns during season, they make this recipe pop. For more of my recipes, click here.
20-25 tea leaves, see below
1/4 cup chickpea flour (bean)
1/4 cup all-purpose (maida) flour
1-2 green chilies, finely minced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
A pinch baking powder
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup water
15 fresh, green peppercorns, in season, or brined
Oil for deep frying
You want to pick fresh tea buds, the best are 1 leaf and the top bud or 2 leaves and the bud if the leaves are very tender and a bright green. Wash well and leave whole.
Mix all the other ingredients for the batter with the water to a consistency thinner than light cream.
Heat the oil in a deep pot or wok, dip a leaf in the batter and float gently into the hot oil and fry 2-3 stems at a time so that you do not over-crowd the wok. Remove when golden and completely cooked through. Complete the rest of the batter-dipped leaves till done. Serve immediately.