Chettinad Pakoda Curry

This is a bit of an epic. It’s a vegetarian dumpling (pakoda) curry from the South Indian region of Chettinad. I must say, there’s a mountain of grinding, blending and general faffery going on with this dish, but bear in mind it’s something you’re unlikely to see in most Indian restaurants so it’s worth the effort in order to try something a little different. It’s a spicy curry with quite a kick, but you can easily tone it down by adding fewer green chillies to your paste. If you’re looking for something truly unique, give this a try.

Dumplings (Pakoda):
1 cup chana dal (split yellow peas) (soaked for 2 hours in water)
2 green chillies (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

Green chilli Paste:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
6 green chillies (chopped)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger (grated)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 fresh curry leaves
4 cardamom pods
2 cloves
4cm stick cinnamon
2 onions (chopped)
10 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon (juice of)

Coconut Paste:
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

1 tomato (chopped)
2 tablespoons fresh coriander (chopped)


To make the dumplings:
Drain the dal and add to a food processor. Add the chillies, ginger, salt and onion. Blend for 1-2 minutes scraping down the batter frequently until you have a thick coarse batter.

Heat the oil in a medium pan or wok over a moderate heat until hot. Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter into the pan and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels as you cook the remaining batter. Set aside.

To make the the green chilli paste:
Heat the oil in a small pan and gently fry the chillies and ginger for a couple of minutes. Place in a pestle and mortar and grind into a smooth paste with a little water. Set aside.

To make the coconut paste:
Grind the poppy seeds into a fine powder in a pestle & mortar. Place the coconut into a food processor along with the ground poppy seeds and 1/2 cup water. Blend into a smooth paste and set aside.

To make the curry:
In a food processor, blend together the onion and garlic. Set aside. Heat the oil in a wok over a moderate heat. Add the curry leaves, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and fry briefly until aromatic. Add the onion paste and fry for a further 4-5 minutes. Stir in the green chilli paste, turmeric and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in 750ml water and bring to a boil and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut paste and simmer gently for another 5-7 minutes then blend together to a smooth consitency in a blender or food processor. Return the sauce to the pan and drop in the pakoda. Bring to a light simmer. Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the lemon juice a little at a time to your taste.

Sprinkle with coriander and tomatoes and serve.

Serve with plenty of fluffy basmati rice. I served this curry ‘thali’ style alongside Brinjal Kootu, Chettinad chicken, Parippu dal and mint blended with yoghurt.

Note: A thali is a selection of curries served in small quantities on one tray alongside rice and roti.

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