My love for hakka cuisine is no big secret. If given the choice to eat whatever I want. I will either pick hakka or thai food every single time.
I’ve shared some of my favourite thai foods such as my basic red curry and paleo pad thai, Pad Gra Prow (thai basil beef), and my easy pad thai recipe is in my Ebook. But I have not shared many hakka recipes here. Only this one. Mostly because we are very lucky to have several delicious hakka places close to our home that we order from regularly. But I decided I needed to correct this serious oversight on my part and give some of my hakka faves a healthy spin so I can enjoy them even when I want to be good.
Also with this month being veganuary, I thought now is a good a time as any to share my veg manchurian pakora recipe!
One of my all time favourite hakka dishes: Vegetarian manchurian pakora balls in a delicious and simple manchurian sauce.
Essentially it is the hakka version of veggie meatballs.
Veggie Balls – add all the Veggies
This is a great fridge clean out recipe! I love that these are loaded with veggies. The restaurant kind has some veggies in it, but they are more ‘pakora’ than veggie. With this version, it is fully loaded. You can add whatever veggies you have on hand. Just make sure to add some carrots and cabbage to help bulk it up. Root veggies work really well in this. And anything that has a lower water content is best. I would stay away from things like tomatoes or potato unless you drained them well first.
I made my pakoras using shredded carrots, cabbage, green onions, and kale. Just make sure everything is grated into similar sized pieces and you will have a great veggie pakora base.
Gluten Free (Paleo) Pakora
To form the meat balls or ‘pakora’ you need a binder ingredient like flour. I tried this two ways: a gluten free paleo pakora, and gluten filled pakora. I am happy to report that both methods worked well.
The pakora made with regular plain flour was a bit crunchier in the end and is exactly like what you would get in the restaurant.
The gluten free pakora are made with either GF 1:1 flour or a mixture of arrowroot flour and tapioca flour. The result was just as tasty, but took a bit more time to get that right crunch. Double frying will help you get there with a gluten free pakora. But there is still a slight difference in texture in the end as the paleo-gluten free version doesn’t quite crisp up as much as the gluten filled counterpart. Gluten does have its crispy benefits. But there was no real difference in taste in either version.
Tips to Make a Veg Manchurian Pakora
Chinese Five Spice Powder Blend
My secret ingredient in these is the chinese five spice powder. It is a very unique flavour and definitely gives it a more authentic feel. If you don’t have any in your pantry and don’t want to go to the store to buy a big bottle you will never use, you can easily make your own using the basic spices that go into this seasoning blend:
- ground cloves
- ground fennel
- ground star anise
- ground sichuan peppercorn
I provided my recipe below so you can always refer back if you need to make your own chinese five spice blend. Remember, a little goes a long way with this aromatic spice blend.
Use your hands to roll the pakora
The pakora or veggie balls in this recipe are formed using mostly the liquid from the veggies. So I found that adding the flour a little at a time and using my hands to mix it all together helped me to get the right consistency for the pakora. You want it to be soft enough to form into a ball in the palm of your hand and sticky enough that it stays together. The amount of flour I used is in the recipe, but note that you may need a bit more or less when you make yours. It is not an exact science here.
Double fry your pakora.
I highly recommend double frying. You will get the most crispiest pakoras this way. I like to fry once to form the veggie balls and make a big batch. Then I can refrigerate till I am ready to serve. Then reheat the cooked pakoras in a pan with a bit of oil till crisp again, set aside, then make the Manchurian sauce and add the pakoras to the sauce right before serving.
Sauce at the Very End
To ensure maximal crispness- pour the sauce over your Manchurian pakora at the very end. As soon as you add sauce they will start to soften, so wait till you are ready to serve to mix the two together.
Veg Manchurian Pakora
For the Pakora
- 1/2 cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 large Carrots, coarsely grated
- 4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos (or soya sauce)
- 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder (store bought or see my version below)
- 1 tbsp hot sauce (sriracha works well)
- 1/2 cup arrowroot powder* (you will adjust the amount you use depending on how wet your batter is)
- 1/2 cup tapioca flour* (you will adjust the amount you use depending on how wet your batter is)
- oil for frying
For the Manchurian Sauce
- oil, for frying
- 1 large onion, minced
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 green chilli, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
- pinch red chilli powder (optional)
- 1/2 black pepper
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos (or soya sauce – I suggest 2tbsp soya sauce and 2 tbsp water as the soya sauce is a bit saltier than coconut aminos)
- 1-2 tsp hot sauce
- salt, to taste
- water, as needed for the sauce
Make the Pakoras
- In a large bowl, mix all your pakora ingredients together (except the oil). The mixture should come together to form a ball in the palm of your hand and not fall apart when you let go. If you find it is too wet, add more flour, if it is too dry, add a splash of water.
- Heat up a large frying pan with about 1 cup of oil (enough to deep fry the pakora).
- Form golf ball sized balls with your pakora mixture in the palm of your hand. They were more like flattened balls for me. Carefully drop a veggie 'ball' into the hot oil and allow to cook on medium heat for 2-3 minutes till golden brown on one side. Flip over and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes.
- Once browned all over, remove the pakoras to a paper towel lined plate or dish and repeat for the remaining mixture until you have cooked all your pakoras. Set aside.
- At this point you can refrigerate your pakora for later, or even just serve them as is. They make a great snack! Or go ahead and double fry them to get them extra crispy – in the same hot oil add the pakoras back in, careful not to over crowd the pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes, flipping often to get them crisped up. Remove onto your paper towel lined plate and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
Make the Manchurian Sauce
- Right before you want to serve, gather your sauce ingredients.
- Heat a large saucepan on medium heat. Add 2-3 tbsp oil (you can use the leftover oil from frying the pakoras) and chopped onions. Cook for 5 minutes until the onions are starting to soften.
- Add ginger, garlic and green chillies and cook 2-3 minutes till fragrant.
- Add the chinese five spice powder, red chilli powder and black pepper, stirfry for about 30 seconds then add the coconut aminos and hot sauce.
- Stir to combine. Add more water to create more sauce if you like. Bring to a boil and add salt to taste.
- Add the pakoras to the sauce and serve immediately.
Chinese Five Spice Powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground fennel
- 1 tsp ground star anise
- 1 tsp ground sichuan pepper corn
- Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 3 months. Better to make a small batch at a time to keep things fresh!
- Optional – for an even better flavour profile, roast whole fennel and sichuan peppercorns before grinding them for this spice mix.