Food is one of those things the love for which transcends boundaries of culture, language, and tradition. People can fight over differences in political opinion, religious dogma, positions on climate change and any number of essentially contested concepts. But every such argument can be broken up by a hot cup of tea or coffee, served with a tangy, flavorful snack.
As an Indian living in America, one of the things I miss most about my country is the food. And while I am a fan of some of the classic American foods, I can’t help but wistfully wonder, if a hint of lime would make the fries zestier, or if a sprinkle of chaat masala would add a much-needed zing to the Caprese salad.
Like a true gastronomer, I share a very ambivalent relationship with potatoes. And that’s why, I love them for their versatility but hate them for masquerading as a vegetable when they are clearly more (or less, depending on how you see them.)
Home fries are a regular American staple. Every diner serves them and even though they aren’t really good for you, you can’t help but have at least one serving (or more, if I’m correct!). Some people argue that home fries are healthier than regular fries. For one, they are not coated in batter, and two, they are often diced and cooked with their skins. In upstate New York, people add onions and freshly ground pepper to the potatoes before frying them. Sometimes, frying can be substituted by baking.
Without much further ado, let us dive right into the recipe. This one serves 4 people.
You will need:
Large Potatoes- 2
Water- 3 cups
Olive oil- 4 tablespoons
Butter- 1/2 teaspoon
Honey- 1/2 teaspoon
Fresh mint leaves (plucked from the stalk)- 100 grams
Fresh cilatro leaves (plucked from the stock)- 50 grams
Onion (quartered)- 1, small
Jalapenos/green chilis- 3-4
Green capsicum (roughly chopped) – 1/2
red chili powder- 1/2 teaspoon or less if you prefer your food to be less spicy
Unripe mango (roughly chopped)- 1
Peanuts (shelled, without skin, unsalted)- lightly roasted- 1/3 cup
Tamarind paste- 1 teaspoon
Salt- 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
Chaat Masala- 1 teaspoon
Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)- 15-20
Freshly pressed Lemon Juice- from one medium sized lemon
1.Dice the potatoes with the skin on and soak them in the water. Add a pinch of salt and a few drops of the oil to the water and mix once. Let the potatoes soak for an hour or two
2. In a grinder, add the mint leaves, the cilantro leaves, the onion, the jalapenos/chilis, the green capsicum, the unripe mango, the peanuts, the tamarind paste, the salt, and the red chili powder. Pulse the mixture once. Open the jar and scrape the sides. Pulse the mixture again till it is relatively smooth, but not completely like a puree.
3. Heat the oil in a wok or a frying pan, saving one teaspoon for later. When the oil is hot, lower the flame to medium and fry the potatoes in small batches to cook them evenly. If you have followed the recipe correctly so far, it should take you no more than two or three batches to fry all the diced potato. The potatoes should look golden-brown on each surface once they are done. Use a toothpick to prick a few pieces to check if they are cooked on the inside.
4. If there is oil left in the wok after frying, use it for this next step. Or add the remaining teaspoon of oil from the previous step. Heat the oil and add all the chopped garlic. Fry on a low-medium flame till the garlic is a light shade of brown. Add the butter, the honey, and the fried potatos. Continue frying with vigorous but careful stirring for 2-3 minutes. Let the potatoes get coated in the garlic-honey sauce.
5. Take the potatoes out into a large bowl. Add the mint sauce and the chaat masala to the bowl and mix them with the potatoes. Make sure that all the pieces are evenly coated.
6. Serve immidiately with a slight sprinkle of lemon juice and sprig of cilantro if you so wish. Serve with ketchup, a yogurt dip, or without a dip.
This is one of my guilty pleasures and I try not to make this often because I know I will end up eating far more than is good for me. I dare you to do better 🙂 Happy Cooking !