Come monsoon and into the hot oil go balls of battered up vegetables, sizzling in almost perfect sync with the patter of the rain.

India’s love affair with pakoras is nothing new. And with the advent of the rains, it only grows more evident.

The pakora is a comfort snack that goes by a number of names like tele-bhaja, bhajji, bonda, vada, etc.

What is amazing is that almost any vegetable, greens, fruit, fish or even meat can be made into pakoras.

The dish is an emotion wrapped in layers of spiced besan or any other kind of flour, and fried till golden.

There are several versions of the pakora: begunis (eggplant pakora) served in Durga Puja bhogs, Mumbai’s batata vada (potato pakoras) or Chennai’s stringy onion crisps called vengayam pakoda.

With so many versions, how did the original pakora get its name? It all began with the concept of ‘pakki rasoi’ and ‘kachchi rasoi’.

While ‘kachchi rasoi’ entailed boiled or raw foods that couldn’t be stored for long, ‘pakki rasoi’ included foods that were fried and stored for longer.

The high heat used to fry the food ensured little to no moisture was left in it.

With time, the round pakwata (‘pakka’ meaning cooked and ‘watta’ meaning laddu) began to be colloquially known as ‘pakoras’.

This unique dish, in all its diversity, also traveled across the globe, influencing and assimilating into foreign palates.

One such prominent influence of Indian pakoras can be found in a Japanese delicacy — the tempura.

According to food experts, back in the 16th century, Spanish and Portuguese ships would stop in India while enroute to Japan.

During the halt, they would onboard cooks from India who were said to have taught the Europeans different ways to consume vegetables including pakoras.

Eventually, when the ships would reach Japan, many of the Indian cooks would stay back. They went on to influence Japanese cuisine and helped create the tempura.

However, unlike our pakoras, the sophisticated tempura version uses wheat flour which makes them crispier.