Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aloo Chaat (Potato Salad)

Finally I am back on a reasonable schedule. I apologize for the rushed posts of the past week, but NaBloPoMo has been killing me! Who knew it was so hard to post every day for a month? Okay, I could have guessed it would be difficult but I stubbornly refused to listen to logic. I am still not up to snuff with picture-taking skills: last night we had friends over for a dinner party with an Indian menu and I was far too focused on cooking to worry about documenting anything. Let me just say that I cooked snake gourd for the first time and it tasted like . . . nothing. Crunchy nothing. It was still foreign enough that I had to eat it with my eyes closed everyone present only ate the smallest amount, but it's a start! Bitter melon is next on the list.
 Enough of that; I made a potato salad that was surprisingly delicious. As in, I also slightly closed my eyes and tried not to dwell on the tamarind sauce (as I despise tamarind) and then found myself stuffing forkfuls of aloo chaat into my mouth. A 7-year-old even liked (though he eventually found it too spicy.) The flavor is tangy with just the slightest hint of heat from de-seeded chilis and mixes up in about 20 minutes, including cooking time. I love Indian recipes this simple, made all the more precious by their scarcity. I can't wait to make it again. Neither should you.

One note about chaat masala: Can you find it in specialty stores? Er, maybe. The Spice House  doesn't carry it but I can't speak area grocery stores; Whole Foods can always be surprising. Fortunately it's easy to make and I have included the recipe below. Of course, it also includes several distinct spices that may be difficult to find: ajowan seeds, amchoor powder and black salt. I could find ajowan, but not amchoor powder, which I can never, ever find in this country, so I substituted dried limes. However, amchoor powder is a fairly common Indian spice and should be more available; look for it around the garam masala and the like. Black salt has a high sulfur content - it tastes exactly like a salted hard-boiled egg - and I didn't have it when I made my first chaat masala, so I substituted regular salt, instead. Keep in mind that you want to achieve a salty, barely spicy, tanginess with the masala and make substitutions from there.

Aloo Chaat
The Food of India

2lb small salad potatoes, unpeeled
1/3cup tamarind puree
4 green chilis, seeded and finely chopped
4tbsp chopped cilantro
2tsp chaat masala  (recipe below)

1. Boil the potatoes in their for 15 minutes or until just tender. Peel the potatoes and slice into small rounds. Put them in a serving bowl.

2. Mix the tamarind puree with 2 tablespoons water. Mix all the other ingredients with the tamarind, then season with salt.

3. Gently toss the potato round with the tamarind mixture and serve either hot or slightly wamr.

Chaat Masala

4tbsp coriander seeds
2tbsp cumin seeds
1tsp ajowan
3tbsp black salt (I didn't have this at the time and used regular salt; you could also try kosher salt)
1tbsp amchoor powder (I can never find this, so used dried limes instead)
2 dried chilis
1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp pomegranate seeds (optional)

In a small frying pan separately dry roast the coriander, cumin and ajowan seeds. Grind the roasted seeds with all other ingredients using a spice grinder or mortar & pestle. Store in an airtight container. Makes 10 tablespoons.

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