Pita dishes are pockets of magic served up on a plate. Offering endless options, they can include salads, meats, rice, or even a colorful medley of crunchy veggies! Whether you’re a culinary novice or a seasoned expert, pita pockets make it easy to mix and match your own ingredients for a delectable and portable meal.
What is Asafoetida?
Indian cuisine is renowned for its complexity of flavors, thanks to the incorporation of a vast array of spices. One such spice largely unfamiliar in the west is asafoetida, known also by its Hindi name, hing. Asafoetida is made from the hard gum resin of the Ferula assafoetida (the species of giant fennel) plant. If you’ve never experienced asafoetida, your journey will likely begin with a trip to your local ethnic or Indian market for just a small container of this yellow or brownish powder. As you open the powder-packed vessel, you’ll realize why you only need the small size; a little goes a long way. For the unprepared, asafoetida can pack quite a sensory wallop. But the magic is in the mixing: bring on hot butter or oil, and the pungent beast is tamed. Asafoetida is a central and beloved ingredient in South Indian cuisine! The spice adds a savory component to your dish, with a hint of onion or leek flavor as well.
Zesteez designed this recipe as a twist on pita pockets featuring our newly launched Mint Cilantro Chutney. This vegetarian recipe also features foods and flavors from Indian cuisine, including masala vada, a falafel-like dish from India, split chickpeas called chana dal*, and the potent asafoetida spice, a powder derived from a species of giant fennel.
For this recipe, we will first cover how to make the masala vada, followed up by our Mint Cilantro Tzatziki Sauce. Finally, we’ll gather our other ingredients to assemble a flavorful, memorable meal!
* Preparation Note: Chana dal (split chickpeas) require a 4-hour soak in water prior to use.
Making Masala Vada
Masala vada’s crunchy exterior and soft, textured interior makes it similar in form to a falafel. A favorite snack in South Indian cuisine, masala vada is made with a coarse mixture of spices and chana dal (split chickpeas), and literally means ‘spiced fritter.’
- 1 cup of chana dal – soaked in water for 4 hours
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Oil to coat your hands (to prevent sticking as you shape and flatten the masala vada with your palms)
Prepare the following:
- 1 red onion – Thinly sliced
- 3 green chilies – thinly sliced
- Small ginger root – thinly sliced
- Curry leaves – 8 to 10, finely chopped
- Cilantro – 1/4 cup, chopped
- Mint – 1/4 cup, chopped
- A pinch of asafoetida
- Salt to taste
Masala Vada Mixture
- Grind the chana dal coarsely with minimal water to maintain a dense consistency.
- To this, add the prepared ingredients – onion, green chilies, ginger, curry leaves, cilantro, mint, a pinch of asafoetida, and salt to taste.
- Mix well and set aside.
Frying the fritters :
- With the masala vada mixture, make medium sized balls (gumball-sized) and flatten slightly.
- Heat oil to medium for frying in a wok, or a deep dish pan. Check the oil temperature by dropping a small portion of the batter in the oil. When the masala vada floats up quickly, this indicates the oil is at the right temperature.
- Slide vadas into the frying pan 1 at a time. Fry until golden brown and absolutely crisp.
- Drain the yummy fritters on kitchen paper towels.
- Set aside.
Mint-Cilantro Tzatziki Sauce
Tzatziki is a popular sauce from Greek cuisine, and our adaptation lends itself perfectly as a cooling complement to the rich and savory masala vada. You can also use this as a dipping sauce for any other tasty snacks!
- 2 Tbsp of Greek yogurt or any thick yogurt
- 2 Tbsp grated cucumber
- A dollop of our Mint Cilantro Chutney
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Stir in a small dish to mix together and voilà! You’ve got instant tzatziki for a refreshing taste.
Pita Pocket Ingredients:
- Whole wheat pita bread
- Romaine lettuce – 1/2 cup
- Red onion, sliced – 1
- Bell peppers – a few colored mini peppers
- Mint Cilantro Chutney – 1 Tbsp
- Cilantro – To garnish
- Salt & Pepper – To taste
- Masala Vada
Assembling the magic pita pocket:
- Warm the pita
- Fill with lettuce, sliced onion, and bell peppers for color and crunch
- Neatly add the masala vada
- Drizzle the Mint Cilantro Tzatziki, and garnish with cilantro
Now that you’ve crafted your delightfully hearty pita pocket, sink your teeth into the warm, handheld feast. Enjoy the crunch of the veggies and the crispness of the vadas. Savor the flavors that pop on your palate and tantalize your tongue. This dish is an excellent party pleaser, with room for the host and guests to get creative with the ingredients!
Stay tuned for more fun and flavor with Zesteez! Feel free to drop us a line and send in a picture of your creations.