A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavour and fear. ∼ Adam Richman
The first blogpost of a New Year is very symbolic… it’s kind of a vision board as to what one hopes for in the 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? Or 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 that 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 FoodeMag, the online Food and Travel website that I curate for my day job? I closed my eyes to make a pick one 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. Here’s starting my blogging journey in the brand new year with a finger licking post of spicy Aloor Dum – ala Kolkata street style!
Kolkata streets have attitude. There is traffic, chaos and massive confusion. But there is an element of attitude and uniqueness that shines through all the madness. Every public vehicle – be it a taxi, bus, hand-pulled rickshaw or an auto rickshaw, have names. I mean – proper names. Salty – that’s the name of the cab I captured on my camera. Can you imagine yourself riding around the city in a cab named Salty or Sweety or Ma’s Blessings (Mar ashirbaad) or A Sister’s only Brother (didir ekmatro bhai)? Do note the hairstyle of the street urchin – look at his élan, pride and the level of confidence with which he posed 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 always street food – lanes lined up with a mindboggling variety of food kiosks that sell food from different cuisines, and that have been given some indigenous makeover at these street kiosks… – Thai, Chinese, Momos, South Indian Snacks (Idli, Dosa, Sambars) and of course, Chats. Nowadays, you also get Pizzas, Pastas and Pastries! I may try replicating Dilipda’s Aloor Dum at home and serve them in cocktail glasses when I have guests dining at home… but I know it is never going to be the same. There’s always some secret ingredient that goes into these inimitable originals. Here’s my take (a brilliant fake) served in cocktail glasses and wooden bowls … followed by the pictures of the original Aloor Dum 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 – Snack; 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 flat-bottomed deep pan. Add cumin seeds and bay leaves. Let the cumin seeds sputter.
- Add 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… cook 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.
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 the spicy Aloor Dum with beer or other hard drinks! You can also try making Dilipda’s Puchka at home, here’s the recipe.)
Potatoes can easily melt a Bengali heart
Aloo or potatoes does hold a special position in every Bengali’s heart and (thereafter reflected 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 julienne that accompany the simple rice and daal in a traditional Bengali meal.
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 – a locked jaw situation!!! 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 that’s been certified 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 and make it into a vision? Enjoy recreating this roadside classic at home and wishing you all a delicious 2015!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: 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. All pictures have been taken by me unless mentioned otherwise. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. Please join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.