Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dum Aloo (Small Potatoes in a creamy spicy sauce)

Ok! Let me confess the name Haldiram's usually makes me a little careless. I of course scan the package for artificial coloring, sugar content and the stuff that people usually scan for when buying packaged foods. Haldiram's for me is on the high end of the spectrum in quality with their vacuum sealed packaging and obviously the well known name and I turn a bit indulgent. To be fair, so far I have not found any of the Haldiram's products bought from any of the stores to be of bad quality or old or smelly which a lot of Indian oil based products are. Looks like what we should be afraid of is not what is listed in the packaging but what is not listed and the nose test is not enough :(

A reader (GS) forwarded this article to me Before the Maggi Noodles Scare Look at What the U.S. FDA Found in Indian Snacks was a bit shocking especially when I read about Haldiram's. As I searched for more information I also read this Haldiram Admits Products Contain Pesticides. Seriously the one mindless indulgence we all participate not because they in any way substitute out home made goodies but it gives us a comfort feeling? I am never going to look at Indian snack food the same way again.

I have always wondered how these snacks make it to the shelves in the US because we all know and are intimately familiar with the Indian government's inability to ensure the minimum level of safety in food products. And not for a second should we be complacent that the FDA inspects each and every product that makes it to the grocery shelves here. Read this, less than 1% gets inspected and this.

As for Maggi noodles, a life saver in the form of quick snack or even meals be it a quick dinner or packed lunch was not especially a surprise. That taste maker packet was always a mystery powder. Anyway after a life time of eating Maggi I stopped buying them altogether about a couple of years ago. It seemed to be a nostalgic crutch more for me than the kids though I was buying it for the kids than myself. They did not seem to miss it at all. I was in grade school when Maggi was first marketed in India. We were given free packets of Maggi noodles in schools no less. No wonder for millions of Indians it is more than a comfort food. It is a reminder of our carefree childhood. With all that nostalgia you'd think that I am actually advocating buying Maggi. To confess, my mom even back then did not particularly endorse Maggi but tolerated it because it came with us from school and it was not going to be easy getting rid of.

Anyway if you are ready for a tastemaker - less noodles which are very similar to Maggi and cooks just as quick but tastes far better, look no further than the curly Chukka Soba noodles. Here is an equally easy recipe to make - Yakisoba noodles. The reason these noodles appealed to me it had ingredients that I understood - unbleached wheat flour, sea salt and water. Even if these noodles are not available in your neck of the woods, I am sure there are similar dry noodles that can be easily substituted for Maggi noodles.

When we read these things we know that cooking at home is perhaps the best thing to do. But a lot of you will laugh and say "who has the time?". In this day and age when pre-cooked packaged ready to eat Indian meals are also available cooking at home has its own benefits. I don't have to wax eloquent on that.

Now on the recipe. If you happen upon small potatoes and you want something tasty dum aloo is something that should come to mind immediately, it does for me ;). The other recipe are these quick and easy roasted potatoes. Here is the recipe - Spicy Oven roasted fingerling and baby potatoes if you are interested.

I prefer the dum aloo without the nut paste and cream/yogurt sometime added. Also this is spicier than the restaurant versions.

Dum Aloo
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 15-20 baby potatoes
  2. seasonings: cumin seeds and a few cloves
  3. For the masala
  4. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  5. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  6. a few peppercorns, 3 red chilies
  7. a small piece of cinnamon stick and a piece of star anise
  8. 1/2 cup of chopped red onions
  9. 2 tomatoes chopped
  10. 1 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped
  11. 2-3 garlic cloves chopped
  12. 1/4 cup of grated of fresh or frozen coconut
  13. handful of coriander leaves
  14. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  15. 2-3 tsp of oil
  16. salt to taste

  1. Wash and boil the potatoes till they are soft. You can leave the skin or peel it off. Make a few cuts or pricks on the potatoes and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking get the masala ready.
  2. Prepare the masala paste
  3. In a saute pan, add a few drops of oil, roast the cinnamon, star anise, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, pepper corns and red chilies till they are starting to turn a slight color. Set aside in the blender.
  4. In the same add a tsp of oil, add the onions and saute till it starts to turn brown. Add garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute till it gets nice and soft. Add the coconut and saute for another 3-4 minutes. You can add the coriander leaves to blend or use it for garnish.
  5. Cool, Run the blender with the whole spices for a couple of spins and then added the onion-tomato-coconut mixture and blend to a smooth paste.
  6. Prepare the curry
  7. In a wide mouthed saute pan heat oil and add the cumin seeds followed by the potatoes, saute for a couple of minutes, the potatoes will brown a bit. Don't let them stick to the bottom. Add the turmeric powder, give a good mix.
  8. Add the blended paste and about 1/2 cup of water, salt and let it simmer in for about 8-10 minutes on medium low heat.

Serve with rice or any Indian bread of choice.

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