Deep fried baby potatoes in a tangy yoghurt gravy spiked with spices like ginger, fennel, cardamom and Kashmiri red chillies. That's Kashmiri dum aloo!
Ah, Kashmiri dum aloo! Now that the weather is turning chilly, this recipe from the northernmost state of India, Jammu and Kashmir, is the perfect antidote to the cold. It is made of a unique combination of aromatic spices that makes for a vibrant, earthy dish. And what I find interesting is that there are no onions, garlic or tomatoes, the usual suspects in any Indian gravy. As a result, the gravy is not very thick, but it is full of flavour.
Ingredients used in making Kashmiri dum aloo:
- Fennel seeds and ginger powder - these are undoubtedly the stars of this recipe. Fennel has a very distinctive licorice-y taste. Pop a few raw seeds in your mouth and chew on them a bit and you'll see what I mean. Ginger powder, on the other hand has very sharp, spicy overtones, but this is what gives dum aloo their punch. One meaning of the word 'dum' is indeed 'punch', so translated, the phrase would mean 'punchy potatoes' literally!
- Kashmiri red chillies and turmeric - Kashmiri chillies are mild compared to other varieties of chillies but they're a lovely, red colour that's all natural. And, of course, turmeric gives a golden glow to anything it's added to.
- Cardamom, cloves and cumin are the other spices used. Since these are also powdered, use only the quantities indicated in the recipe, or the gravy will become too overpowering.
Kashmiri dum aloo is quite tangy and it's all thanks to the generous amount of yoghurt used in the recipe. If you want to reduce the sourness, put less yoghurt during the cooking process. The only downside is that the gravy will be reduced too, but the potatoes will taste just as good.
I have to mention the two oils used in preparing dum aloo: mustard and canola. Mustard oil, which is used for cooking the gravy, has warm, spicy overtones just like the seeds. It imparts the same heady flavours to this Kashmiri dum aloo recipe. (In fact, most vegetables in North India, not just potatoes, are cooked in mustard oil and this happens to be a sort of secret to their deliciousness).
However, if you don’t like the oil or do not have it at hand, go ahead and use any cooking oil of your choice. If you are using mustard oil, however, it is necessary to smoke it to get rid of the rawness and pungency. Heat the oil until it starts giving off fumes and turns pale yellow in colour. Let it cool down a bit and you’re good to go. For deep frying the potatoes, I use canola or sunflower oil.
Tips for making the perfect dum aloo:
- Make sure the boiled potatoes are still quite firm and not mushy or they will break later in the cooking process. The best way to do this is to turn off the heat once the potatoes start boiling, cover the pan, and remove them from the water after 15-20 minutes.
- Check the yoghurt for sourness before cooking it: it should not be sour to begin with. The gravy is going to be quite tangy anyway because of all that yoghurt but you don’t want it overly so.
- If you freak out at the thought of deep frying stuff, halve the potatoes and shallow fry them! Won't make any difference to the taste.
Serve Kashmiri dum aloo with any Indian bread of your choice: rotis, naan or parathas and enjoy!
kashmiri dum aloo
- 1.5 lb or 680 grams baby potatoes
- oil for deep frying
- 2 tbsp. mustard oil
- 2 cups yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- 5-6 green cardamom peeled
- 4 cloves
- salt to taste
- Parboil the baby potatoes in a saucepan.
- Once cool, prick them all over with a toothpick.
- Heat some oil in a wok and deep fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on some kitchen paper.
- Dry roast the fennel, cumin, cardamom and cloves in a small fry pan until fragrant. Grind to a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
- Whisk the yoghurt in a bowl and add the above spice powder. Then tip in the Kashmiri chilli, turmeric, ginger powder and salt and mix well.
- Heat the mustard oil in a pan to smoking point (the oil should change colour and turn a pale yellow). Turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool down a bit. Then add the yoghurt mixed with spices and let it cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Keep stirring to prevent the yoghurt from curdling.
- Add the potatoes, some water (if you don’t want a very thick gravy) and cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 10 minutes. Spoon out the potatoes in a dish and serve hot with any Indian bread of your choice.
- All the ingredients for making dum aloo are available readily in any Indian supermarket or grocery store. While you're there, buy your yoghurt too (any Indian brand). Indian yoghurt is generally less sour and has more whey.
- It takes ages to peel baby potatoes since they have such thin skins. So I skip peeling them altogether. Saves time!