Potatoes are extremely versatile. Honestly, their ability to adapt to cuisines around the world has meant that you can order fries wherever in the world you might find yourself. In India, the aloo is so ubiquitous that you’ll be spoilt for choice. These chutneywale aloo are a variation of a combination that is lip-smackingly good. Read on!
Spreading tuber fever across the world
Before I divulge the details, a little food for thought. Imagine this, potato is a tuber that originated in the Andes and only when the first Europeans (Spanish and Portuguese) started colonizing South America did it head out on its journey across the world making its way to the heart of every cuisine in the world, except probably the far east and south-east Asia where it’s still eaten sparingly. I am yet to see it on an Asian-fusion menu, have you? Although, the Wikipedia entry mentions that when the potato first reached China – where it found a home before India – it was treated as a delicacy for the ruling classes.
In India, the Portuguese were successful in creating colonies on the western coast and along came their food, culture, language and way of life; much of which has survived in Goa – their longest lasting post in India. That’s probably the journey Potato, or Batata as it had been christened by the Portuguese, took to reach India. Interestingly, if you travel south from Delhi towards the central plains and Deccan plateau and ultimately reach Mumbai, the use of the word Batata over Aloo for Potato increases. That’s the beauty of language, it accommodates and adapts making room for the new, until it becomes familiar.
Potatoes in the Andes Weren’t Always Life-giving
Today’s potatoes that are deemed edible are actually a product of experimentation by early Andean farmers and communities that learnt how to get rid of a poisonous compound – Solanine – a type of Glycoalkaloid. While still present in commercially sold potato varieties, Glycoalkaloid levels have been controlled by breeding.
Early Andean farmers had less to rely on. Tubers high in Glycoalkaloids are typically bitter and cause symptoms such as diarrhoea and vomiting. So, they painstakingly – literally, discovered and propagated only such varieties that weren’t bitter. Eventually, two communities in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru started freeze drying potatoes. The potatoes are spread out on the ground for 3-4 nights and allowed to freeze overnight. Then they are trampled by feet and finally washed to bleach out all the toxins and remove the skin. The end product is called Chuno – freeze dried black or white potatoes- which can be stored for up to a year. My knowledge of this comes from a very informative episode of Food: Delicious Science on Netflix. I checked some other sources (Spud Smart, Canada, and at NY Times ) and found overlapping information.
Thank you Andean Farmers & reluctantly, Portuguese
I have to give my thanks first to the Andean communities of Peru and Bolivia for discovering this starchy tuber and being persistent in taming it. Reluctantly, I also thank the Portuguese. While they were colonizers who came to India to benefit from its riches, they also brought things that made our cultural life richer. I cannot imagine what a meal on my family’s table would’ve consisted of day after day, if the potato hadn’t reached India.
Aloo and India – A Continuing Love Saga
In India potatoes are loved and treated as if this tuber was born there and is the pride of the pack, a promise child being showcased to the rest of world. Yes, that’s how deep our love for potatoes runs, from the north to the south, east to the west of India. You will find it paired with Aubergines (eggplants) in Aloo Baingan, inside your Dosa or Samosa as a filling, as an Aloo Sabzi to be enjoyed with Pooris or as a bowl of Aloo Chaat for snacking.
Chutney + Aloo = Chutneywale Aloo, Simple!
Chutney – by which I mean the Hari Chutney made of fresh mint and coriander – is the perfect dip for potato wedges.
So, I decided to combine them into one crispy wedge. Actually, before I made this version of chutneywale aloo, I simple slathered chutney all over the wedges after frying. While that is great, I wanted to figure out a method that would keep them crisp and coated longer.
Here is how I made my Chutneywale Aloo
Total Time ~ 45 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cooking Time: 30 minutes
- Chutney about 1/2 cup,
- Aloo (assorted baby potatoes) 1.5 to 2 lbs ~ 1 kg,
- Oil 1/2 to 3/4 cup (canola oil or any fit for frying),
- Salt to taste,
- Red Chilli Powder (optional) 1/2 tsp,
- Pepper to taste,
- Besan (chickpea flour) 2 tbsp or more as needed.
You will need:
- A slotted spoon,
- Paper towels,
- A shallow frying pan.
- Amchoor (dried mango powder).
First, wash and pat dry the potatoes. While bagged potatoes might seem clean, they carry a lot of dust. So, wash well and if available use a vegetable brush to gently clean the skin. After brushing, clean again under running water. Then pat dry.
Cut into wedges. You will typically get 4 per potato, unless it is larger, then slice into 6 wedges.
In a large bowl add chutney and check for taste. Since this will be mixed with besan, add additional spices to make sure potato wedges are properly flavoured. I added about 1/2 tsp each of salt and red chilli powder and a couple of cracks of black pepper. After this add besan and whisk well to remove any lumps.
Tip all the wedges into this bowl and coat with the chutney mix. Let them marinate while you heat up oil.
In a shallow frying pan, add about 1/2 cup of oil or more based on the size of your pan. I used Canola oil. Heat on high heat for a few minutes. You will see current like movements (like eddies) in the oil. Reduce heat to medium high and let it be really hot. Test by adding a drop of the marinade. It should instantly crackle and float.
Let the frying begin
Now add wedges, few at a time, based on the size of your pan. Fry on medium heat. The idea is to fry them gently without blackening and burning the chutney and still cooking the potatoes. Since the oil is hot, it will cook the first side within a minute, turn and cook for another minute or two until each side is golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Repeat until all marinating wedges are cooked. Between batches, turn the heat up to bring the oil back to a higher temperature.
**Note: Do not worry if you see some blackening of the chutney. It contains a lot of mint – that’s how I like it – and mint turns a dark green, almost black, when cooked. If you cook gently, at a consistent temperature, there will be less blackening.
Transfer wedges to a serving bowl and sprinkle amchoor (dried mango powder). This is a sour powder that adds that lip-smacking flavour I promised in the beginning.
Enjoy Chutneywale Aloo with some ketchup and your favourite summer drink – a sinful mango slushy or a chilled Boston sour, perhaps.
Either way, let us know what you thought about this easy recipe for potato wedges cooked with an Indian twist.
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Chutneywale Aloo – Potato Wedges with Mint Coriander Coating
- Frying pan
- Slotted spoon
- Paper towels
- 1/2 Cup Mint chutney
- 2 Lbs Assorted baby potatoes
- 1/2 to 3/4 Cup Cooking oil high smoking point oil such as canola
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 Tsp Red chilli powder or replace with paprika
- Pepper to taste
- 2 Tbsp Besan/gram flour more as needed
- Ketchup for serving
- ~ 2 Tsp Amchoor optional
- First, wash and pat dry the potatoes. Cut into wedges, typically 4 to 6 per potato depending on size.
- In a large bowl add chutney and check for taste. Add additional spices to make sure potato wedges are properly flavoured. Add besan and whisk well to remove any lumps.
- Tip all the wedges into this bowl and coat with the chutney mix. Let them marinate while you heat up oil.
- In a shallow frying pan add about 1/2 cup of oil or more based on the size of your pan. Heat on high heat for a few minutes. Test by adding a drop of the marinade. It should instantly crackle and float.
- Now add wedges, few at a time, based on the size of your pan. Fry on medium heat. Turn and cook until each side is golden brown.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.Repeat until all marinating wedges are cooked.
- Between batches, turn the heat up to bring the oil back to a higher temperature. Transfer wedges to a serving bowl and sprinkle amchoor (dried mango powder). Enjoy Chutneywale Aloo with some ketchup and your favourite summer drink.