Versatility of the Potato in Indian Cooking
Although the potato is not native to India and was most likely introduced to the country during the British Raj (rule), it is today one the commonly used ingredient in a variety of Indian dishes. India is also one of the largest producers of potato in the world today.
It is indeed amazing how this foreign vegetable blended so well into curries and was modified to be part of traditional recipes. It is hard to acknowledge that its origins lie in maybe Peru or another totally different part of this world.
Boiled potatoes in simple Indian dishes
The simplest usage of potato in Indian food is the ‘potato dish’ in itself. You can make it a dry dish or a dish with curry. Simply boil potatoes and add the various Indian spices and ‘aloo masala’ is ready. (Potato in the native Indian language of Hindi is called ‘aloo’), If you prefer gravy, you first cook onions and tomatoes with the Indian spices, add water and put together a curry and then drop in boiled potatoes or even uncooked ones and cook it along with the curry. One can garnish this potato dish with chopped coriander for an additional taste.
In the southern part of India, they use potatoes on rice pancakes called ‘Dosa’ and that is called ‘masala dosa’. Again, the potatoes are boiled and cooked with spices such as turmeric, chilli and salt and the rice pancakes are stuffed with this filling. This is a very popular breakfast dish in southern India.
Potato and Yogurt
What else? Well, potatoes are used in yogurt too..yes! Most Indian households have plain , unflavoured and usually yogurt or curd that is ‘set’ at home itself, along with their meals. It is a way to abate spice as well as help in digestion. Many a times , this plain curd or yogurt is mixed with a garnish of sort to add variety to the curd. For example, cucumbers are grated and added to curd. Similarly, boiled and dices potatoes are also mixed along with yogurt and had with meals. It is quite tasty! Of course, the yogurt is sprinkled with some spice, salt and coriander as well, else plain yogurt and plain boiled potatoes don’t sound delectable at all!
Potatoes and vegetables cooked together..
Potatoes can be used with almost every Indian vegetable preparation. You can combine potatoes with cauliflower, or cabbage or capsicum or even brinjal. Hence you have Indian vegetable dish names such as potato –cauliflower, potato-brinjal, potato-capsicum and so on. It goes well and adds to the taste of all vegetables cooked the Indian way. In fact many mothers have to necessarily add it to their vegetables so that young children are more agreeable to eating their daily veggies! Some varieties of potatoes are not even peeled but cooked along with their skin or coats on.
Besides rice, Indians eat a lot of bread made from wheat flour and usually the dough is rolled thinkand cooked slowly over a pan. This is called ‘Roti’ or ‘Chappati’. A stuffed variation of Roti is called Paratha wherein the stuffing can be of potato (again!) or grated cauliflower or grated radish or grated cottage cheese etc. Mashed potato mixed with seasoning and chillies and then stuffed into dough and rolled into parathas are a very filling meal in itself and are extremely popular in northern India.
Potato in Indian Street Food
‘Aloo Tikki’ is a very popular street food in India. It basically consists of boiled potatoes, mashed and mixed with seasoning , along with chopped coriander and ginger, it is then pan fried and made crisp (almost like hamburgers are) and then eaten hot with a tangy tamarind sauce.
Another popular street food is ‘Gol Guppe’ where you have small fried paper thin and crisp balls of flour. You crack the crisp top and drop in some potato and some boiled chick peas and then dip the whole ball into a spicy, sweet and sour water and gobble the entire ball in one go ...well at least ideally or it gets messy!
Potato with meat and fish
In the northern most state of Kashmir there is another potato delicacy which involves first boiling the small bite size potatoes, then deep frying them and then tossing them into a curry made of yogurt and tomatoes and strong whole spices.
Many meat dishes in India used cut potatoes in their curry. Goat or fish curry in the eastern part of India usually are accompanied with large pieces of potatoes. They also have a very popular dish made of boiled potatoes and crushed poppy seeds for flavouring.
Potato dipped in gram flour paste is another very popular snack in western India had during tea time.
So you can see how the potato belonging to faraway lands has gradually become a daily ingredient in Indian households. Thanks to the mass production in the country, it is accessible to both the rich and the poor and depending on the way it is cooked and used can be a simple meal for the farmer at the end of a hard day’s work or a luxurious one for the more fortunate.