A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear. ∼ Adam Richman
I have been told that the first blogpost in a New Year is very symbolic… it’s kind of a vision board as to what I am hoping for in this new year. And to pin down on that vision board cum first blogpost took me so long that we are already 6 days into 2015. Should it be a travel post – I aspire to travel the world along with the Z-Sisters, or should it be on Bengali cuisine or my Bengali gourmet pop up dreams and the book that I aspire to write (of course before I die)? Should it be a new restaurant find in Dubai that not only feeds the tummy but feeds the soul as well – because, nothing gives me more happiness than finding a hidden gem which people start talking about and also lets me show off a blingy city with a soul. Or may be it could be a Chef interview? I love meeting people, peeping into the kitchens and I did have the pleasure to meet up with a lot of passionate chefs last year, some of them associated with Michelin star restaurants. Or hold on… what about Food e Mag dxb, the online Food and Travel magazine that I have started editing since last February? Dillydallying, I closed my eyes to make a pick and I felt my jaw locked and my tongue tied with the memory of the aroma of the spicy baby potatoes that can be made only by a few expert hands at selected street corners in Kolkata. Yes, I am talking about the spicy aloor dum made by the ‘world famous in Kolkata’ Dilipda of Vivekananda Park. His phuchkas are legendary (his phuchka post is still one of the most visited posts in my blog), so is his Aloor Dum. If Michelin were to award its stars to street food kiosks, Dilipda’s stall would be the first one to be awarded – I am being dead serious. So here’s starting my blogging journey in the brand new year with a finger licking post of spicy Aloor Dum – Kolkata Street Style!
Kolkata streets have an attitude. Yes, there is traffic, there is chaos and confusion. But there is attitude and uniqueness. Every public vehicle – taxis, buses, rickshaws and auto rickshaws have names. I mean – proper names. Salty – that’s the name of the cab I captured on my camera. Can you believe that – riding around a cab named Salty or Sweety or Ma’s Blessings (Mar ashirbaad) or A Sister’s only Brother (didir ekmatro bhai)? And note the hairstyle of the street urchin – look at his elan and the pride and the confidence with which he poses for my camera. And who cares about the traffic? There’s always a delicious end to a destination – some sweet shop in the locality and there is street food – lanes lined up with a mindboggling variety of food kiosks and selling food from different cuisines – all *street-ed* (that is given an indigenous twists at these street kiosks… apologies if you don’t get it) – Thai, Chinese, Momos, South Indian Snacks (Idli, Dosa, Sambars) and of course chats. And nowadays, you will also get Pizzas and Pastas! I might try replicating Dilipda’s Aloor Dum and serve them in cocktail glasses when I have guests dining at home… but I know that it’s a great imitation of an inimitable original. Here’s my brilliant fake served in cocktail glasses and wooden bowls … followed by the pictures of the originals at Dilipda’s stall in Vivekananda Park – sans the delicate crockery and cutlery!
Spicy Aloor Dum in Dilipda’s stall in Vivekananda Park…
Spicy Baby Potatoes Kolkata Street Style or Aloor Dum
Category – Snacks; Cuisine type – Indian Road-side
1 kg small baby potatoes, boiled and skinned
4 onions, minced
4 tbsp ginger, minced or pureed
2 tbsp garlic, minced or pureed
4 tbsp coriander powder
4 tbsp cumin powder
3 tsp red chilli powder (dry roast whole red chillies with salt and then grind them into a powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp of cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
4 tbsp tamarind paste, (available in bottles in regular supermarkets or with the pulp extracted after soaking in hot water)
2 tsp rocksalt
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tbsp white oil
1 bunch of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp of lime, squeezed*(preferably Gondhorjaj Lebu or the Bengali Lime but you may use Thai Kaffir Lime for the aroma)
1 tbsp roasted cumin powder (dry roast whole cumin seeds and then grind them into a powder)
1 tbsp sugar
salt, as per taste
- Heat oil in a deep-walled flat-bottomed deep pan. Add the cumin seeds and bay leaves and let the cumin seeds sputter.
- Add the ginger-garlic mince, and then the minced onions and fry till the onions turn golden brown.
- Add all the spices (excepting the tamarind paste) and cook until the oil separates from the mixture.
- Blend in the baby potatoes, tamarind paste, salt and sugar and softly mix them into the spices.
- Add 2 cups of water and cook in low flame… boil enough so that the spice mixture is absorbed by the baby potatoes but not so much that the latter breaks up.
- Sprinkle with roasted cumin powder and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve hot or cold – with tooth picks.
When we had visited Dilipda’s kiosk, my mum-in-law had very diligently written down Dilipda’s narration of his recipes as he served us simultaneously with Phuchkas and Aloor Dum. The above recipe however is adapted from his version and has been tried and tested at home many times. Try these spicy Aloor Dum with beer and other hard drinks! Dilipda’s Puchka recipe here.)
Aloo or potatoes does hold a special position in every Bengali’s heart and (thereafter reflecting in the expanded girth of a Bengali tummy!). So while I have tried to tweak the simple mashed potato in an earlier blogpost to give it a gourmet feel, I have also had several drafts lying in my folder on the various versions of Aloor Dum that a Bengali can cook up. The most popular would be the ones which accompany the Phulko Luchis (read my ode on Luchi please) for a Sunday breakfast – here’s Bong Mom’s Cookbook recipe. But legendary are the jhurjhure aloo bhaja or the deep fried potato juilenne that accompany the rice and daal in an elaborate traditional Bengali meal. More on that on another post!
What do you think of my rendition of Dilipda’s Aloor Dum? I don’t know whether Diilipda would have been proud, but all I can say is that my Aloor Dum will also guarantee that tyaak sound that inevitably comes out when one puts these street-kind-of-snacks into the mouth – followed by a locked jaw!!! At home, the Aloor Dum graces our parties and surprisingly is quite a hit with hard drinks! Talking about Kolkata street food, I did serve another street version – the Churmur – in one of my Bengali pop ups here in Dubai... upgrading it with shrimps (a glimpse below). So what’s in a name? And what’s in a location? All’s well that ends well and tastes delicious and makes that sound – tyaak! So while my vision board remains incomplete, my first blog post does capture my vision for this year – delicious, tangy, spicy and finger licking good (and certified spicily good by Foodgawker and Tastespotting)! Do you have a vision board to share, or are you like me, happy to lick spices and curries off your fingers wherever you are? Here’s a delicious 2015 to you then!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: All pictures have been taken by me unless mentioned otherwise. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. You can catch my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.