Aloo/Alu Bhaji (Spicy potato curry) is an Indian favorite for its insanely simple preparation and easygoing taste. When served with Puri (unleavened, deep-fried tortilla-like Indian bread), the combination is probably the most universal Indian entree ever. The Puri-bhaji combo can found frequenting Indian breakfast and lunch tables, lunch-time eateries for office-goers, in kids' lunchboxes, during Indian festivals, at Hindu temples as lunch-time Prasad (God's meal offering), and probably most famously - a poorer variant is sold at all railway platforms across North India. I will not be surprised if someone comes up with a statistic someday that Puri-Bhaji is the most consumed meal in India! My family would have contributed mightily to this statistic, nary a Sunday passed without having this delectable pair for brunch. On a personal note, nothing proves the simple irresistible power of this dish to me more than seeing my health-nut hubby sitting down with a pack of paper napkins to swab away the oil from the Puri and have a go at the dish rather than turn it down.
The popularity of Aloo Bhaji is befuddling given that it does not include the usual Indian spice suspects in its preparation - no garam masala (or any other masala), no ginger, no garlic, not even onions. Maybe it takes a page from Steve Jobs's (Apple's founder) handbook - do one thing, but do it exceptionally well! And Aloo Bhaji certainly comes up to the mark. Since there are no spices, I find that it is important to add green chillies (serrano) to bring out flavor to this dish. Also, I add some sugar to neutralize the sourness of the tomato puree. Besides these caveats, it is such a straightforward preparation that you could probably do it blindfolded. Umm, or maybe with one eye open ;)
ALOO BHAJI RECIPE
2 medium-size Potatoes; peeled & boiled
1 tsp Cumin seeds (Jeera)
1/8 tsp Asafoetida (Heeng)
1 1/2 tbsp White granulated Sugar or to taste
Salt to taste
1/8 tsp Turmeric Powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Red Chilli Powder) or to taste
2 Serrano Green Chillies or to taste; destemmed & finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh Cilantro (Coriander) leaves
How to make Alu Bhaji
- Boil water (enough to cover the tomatoes) in a deep pan on medium heat. Add tomatoes & cook for 5 minutes. Drain, cool & peel off the skin. Mash the tomatoes coarsely with a masher. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat.
- Add cumin seeds. Once the cumin seeds begin to change color, add asafoetida. Mix..
- Add salt to taste, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper, green chillies. Mix.
- Add the mashed tomatoes & 1/2 cup of water. Mix well & cook for 10 minutes or till the gravy is thick. Keep stirring occasionally.
- Add sugar & potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Adjust seasoning to your taste. Transfer it to a bowl.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves. Serve it hot with Puris or Paranthas.
Add less sugar if you prefer to keep the Aloo Bhaji tangy.