There are a few dishes as simple and as universal as fried potatoes – but done in different ways in different parts of the world.
Loochi (deep fried puffed bread) Aloo Bhaja and Dal (soupy lentil) Aloo Bhaja are a quintessential Bengali dishes. While Aloo Bhaja simply means “fried potatoes”(Aloo=Potato, Bhaja=Fried), traditionally it holds a more deeper meaning – it is a big part of the cuisine and culture. Paired with Loochi, the fried potatoes usually makes a luxurious weekend breakfast, or the two together often make their way to the lunch boxes, saved for special occasions and also to make something quick and delicious for guests . I have sweet memories of my ma serving coin sized Loochi with shoe string fried potatoes when I would invite an entire neighborhood of friends to celebrate my doll’s birthday or even for a doll wedding. Paired with rice and dal, it makes a more humble side dish. There are “aloo bhaja” which are twins of french fries or some which looks and tastes like the shoe strings; the others are cubed or sliced, coated or plain, stir fried or deep fried.
But this one is a little different. The first time I had this was in a friend’s home and I got quite addicted to these; crusted and crispy on the outside and melt in the mouth inside, these can soon be your worst enemy for you would not be able to stop. I found more uses for these fries than just a side dish. A little spiced up, they make fantastic appetizers. Over the years I have found ways to cook them in a skillet rather than deep frying them and yet getting the same crispy outside – a small effort to make it a tiny bit healthy if that makes anyone feel better.
Poppy Seed and Chickpea Crusted Potatoes
- 4 medium potatoes
- 4 tablespoons chickpea flour/besan/bengal gram flour
- 2 tablespoons white poppy seeds + 1 tablespoon white poppy seeds
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- sea salt
- 2 teaspoons red chili powder/cayenne pepper, or more or less as per your taste
- 2 tablespoons oil
- freshly ground black pepper
Make sure you use a thick and heavy bottomed pan for this. Since this dish is supposed to be deep fried and I have pan fried them to get the same crispy texture, they need to cook well and not stick to the pan. I use my cast iron pan.
Combine the chickpea flour, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, turmeric, chili/cayenne powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Optional step: If you think the kind of potatoes you are using will take too long to cook, plunge the diced potatoes in boiling water and cook only for a couple of minutes; drain and proceed with the coating and cooking them in skillet.
Peel and cube the potatoes. Wash and drain them, but do not dry them off completely. (no additional water is used to the flour to make a batter; the flour will have to stick to the potatoes). Place the washed potatoes in a large bowl and add the above combination of the chickpea flour and the spices few spoons at at time to the cubed potatoes while tossing them so that the flour coats the cubed potatoes. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds on the cubed potatoes and toss again.
Heat oil in a thick bottomed skillet (cast iron works the best for me). Spoon over the flour coated potatoes in a single layer in the pan.
Cook at medium heat till the potatoes are brown on the bottom side and can easily be flipped over. Do not forcefully flip them. When the flour is cooked and brown, they will easily come off the skillet. Cook all sides of the potatoes till they are brown and the potatoes are cooked through.
Sprinkle some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve hot as a snack or side dish.
Finally I made it to the ongoing Fall Fest; Root Veggies this time.