I learnt to make these pakoras in Kashmir. They are a popular street food.
Lotus stems blacken easily so buy freshly cut, white ones and use them quickly. The secret to these crunchy fritters is to use as little water as possible and to fry them in hot oil.
These fritters are not cooked in a batter rather they are dredged in rice flour to absorb the liquid within the stems.
1/4 kg / about 10 oz fresh white lotus stems
1 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder or cayenne pepper
1 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
250g vegetable oil for frying
Wash the lotus stems and then peel them using a sharp vegetable peeler.
Wash them again under running water.
Slice the stems into three equal pieces.
Using a sharp knife hold each piece up and slice lengthwise into quarters.
Pat the stems dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Place in a large mixing bowl.
Add red chilli powder, cumin seeds, a teaspoon of salt and the rice flour. Mix well.
Allow the rice flour to absorb the liquid in the lotus stems.
Taste for salt and adjust.
The batter should be clumpy and sticky and not liquid. If it's too dry add water by the teaspoonful until the rice just about clings to the sliced lotus roots.
If you add too much water your fritters/pakoras will be soggy.
Heat 2.5 inches of oil in a small wok or kadai on a high flame.
When oil is hot but not smoking, reduce flame to medium and fry the pakoras in batches until golden and crisp.
I generally fry one piece to make sure the oil is hot enough. I cook it through and taste it for doneness and salt before I fry a larger batch. This way I know how long the batter takes to cook.
Drain in a colander over paper towels. Serve hot.