Being completely honest would help here, I think. I might be a raging carnivore, but I have a strange relationship with potatoes.
They feature in every one of my happy memories. From home, hostel, college and now. (It really has nothing to do with how I’m surrounded by resolute but tolerant vegetarians.)
I don’t need to tell anyone how staple this vegetable happens to be and how frequently and purposefully it is a part of Indian cuisine. Fish curries and mutton patties. Grated and deep-fried to perfection. Aloo dum and aloo pakoras. Sauteed with cumin and coriander or curried with peas in a tomato gravy. Well, the list goes on for miles.
Back home (Kolkata), potatoes are a must in most fish curries. Most.
A very spicy potato curry (which was more water than vegetables) was one of the very first things I learnt to cook. Nobody ate it. It was too spicy. My first try at making fries at home was a disaster too. I was stingy with the vegetable oil and was left with brown curled-up wedges which would disintegrate into ash-like substances on touch. I know.
I continued to be in love with potatoes, and never got tired of trying something new with them, burnt pots and pans aside. My friends and I spent Holi every year roasting purple sweet potatoes on an open-fire till their skins burst open revealing deliciously sweet, meaty insides. Just a sprinkle of salt and we would settle down munching contentedly. My brother and I still go crazy about breakfasts which would include Mum’s famous “french fries’ sandwiches” – just deep-fried potato wedges with turmeric and salt, fried till golden, with a sprinkle of chaat masala on top, sandwiched between two pieces of generously buttered white bread! We have a name for it — Heaven.
I just don’t like looking at them. They somehow, in a very sarcastic manner, seem to remind me of…me.
I don’t know…maybe its the shape, or the skin….or maybe even the green stuff that grows on the older ones.
And now, I’ve started hiding behind them literally. I use them to mask a badly made dish. I run to something potato when I need something quick to feed seven hungry mouths within a short notice. I serve a side of it when I doubt the sufficiency of available cooked rice. Baked in their jackets, boiled and cooled and pealed in peace, golden fried in sesame oil or mashed up, potatoes will always have a special place in my life.
The weather in Mumbai has been a let down for quite sometime now. Humid and irritatingly hot. We’re still waiting for the rains to bring in the smell of freshly wet earth, lush greens and the characteristic nip in the air. And waiting for my brother’s arrival. His finals took a toll on him and he’s dropping by to vacation in Mumbai. My precious stash of chocolates is in danger. And I’m not even thinking of how much fruit I’ve to buy.
He also happens to be very fond of potato wedges in a hot chili-garlic sauce.
Chilli Garlic Potatoes
- 2-3 medium-sized potatoes, sliced into wedges
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
- 4 big cloves of garlic, chopped
- Half a ginger, slivered
- 2 tablespoons of dark soy
- 2 tablespoons of red chili sauce
- 1 whole green chili, deseeded (slit the chili and scrape out the seeds, but leave ‘em in if you want the dish to be super spicy)
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree (you could use tomato ketchup which would add a little sweetness to the dish)
- 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine vinegar (any other type will do too, honestly)
- 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
- Heat 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in a wok.
- Add the garlic, ginger, slit green chili and onions and fry on high heat till the onions start to brown at the edges.
- Add the potatoes and toss to coat well with the oil.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for a minute.
- Meanwhile mix the soy, chili sauce, tomato puree (or ketchup), vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. Stir till the sugar dissolves.
- Add this mixture to the potatoes. Toss well. Conduct a taste check and season accordingly with salt and pepper.
- Cook covered, on low heat till the potatoes are cooked through, soft and can be cut in half easily with a fork.
- Garnish with freshly chopped coriander, sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top and serve.