I have had vegetable pakoras twice in my life--and both were this week. The first time was Sunday night, when Nina and I were out at one of our favorite Asheville restaurants, the excellent Kathmandu Cafe, which offers Indian and Nepali food. Nina selected an appetizer sampler plate for us, and it included several pakoras. I liked them.
TJ's announced the arrival of its newly reformulated, re-sourced vegetable pakoras on March 14. I kept asking about them at the Asheville store, and was told they weren't able to get them yet. But last week they finally showed up, so they became a main feature of Wednesday's dinner with Nina. They're cheap--just $1.99 for a box.
It's surely unfair to compare them to the fresh, handmade ones I had had three days before from a good restaurant. But what else can I do? The frozen ones suffer greatly in the comparison. The outer shell is tough rather than tender. The ingredients convey a generic veggieness, but it's hard to discern individual flavors as I could in the fresh ones.
Despite the unfortunate comparison, I thought they were decently good. The included tamarind sauce complemented them nicely. My biggest complaint was that I kept biting into something unpleasantly hard. Nina, having the same experience, grabbed the box to check the ingredients, hoping to identify the culprit. She guessed--rightly, I think--that it was the pomegranate seeds, which apparently do not soften with baking as much as I would have imagined.
Will I buy it again?
Maybe. Not often, but it's a different kind of thing than I usually serve, so might make a nice change of pace occasionally.
The inclusion of pomegranate seeds in these pakoras is a deal-breaker for me. For one thing, they are even more annoying than raspberry seeds. For another, there is no discernible flavor contribution of pomegranate to compensate for the aggravation.
Even without the seeds, however, these pakoras do not impress. The dough is excessively bready, the taste of the vegetables muddled.
Nah. Try again, TJ's, try again.