I have no clue why this dish is called Bihari bhujia not Pakistani bhujia as it’s eaten mostly in Pakistan. I am not even sure if it’s eaten in Bihar or not. I have been eyeing this recipe for a while but was not comfortable with the deep-fried onion part of it. I am very bad with deep-frying. Not everything comes out crispy, especially batter-fried stuff. They wilt in no time and so does my enthusiasm. A few weeks ago I made a kabab (recipe coming soon) which needed deep-fried onions (aka beresta in Persian). In the process, I finally figured out how to make the onions stay crisp. As a bonus, I also gathered enough courage to make this potato stir-fry (I used the new potatoes I harvested few weeks ago).
In the neighborhood where I spent my childhood, potato picking was a yearly ritual. Our neighbor had a small plot of land in front of our house where he planted vegetables a few times a year. After school, I couldn’t wait to cross the tiny alleyway from our house to his field and start helping Joya jethu/Uncle Joya. As I was a tiny kid, I couldn’t help much physically but I think he appreciated my enthusiasm and energy. I used to get really excited when it was notun alu/new potato season. Of all the vegetables he grew, I found the potatoes especially exciting, although I don’t know exactly why. The moment Joya jethu dug up the potatoes, I would start taking them back to the basket, saving him a bit of effort I guess. The golden tubers hanging from the roots always made me happy in the anticipation that I might get a few of them to take home. After a hard day’s work, I would fold my frock to make a makeshift sack and Joya jethu would put a few potatoes in there. I would rush to Maa and she would make something simple with them, maybe aloor dum (potato curry with a dry gravy). The fresh-picked potatoes always tasted delicious.
Anyway, more than two decades later, I harvested potatoes for the first time in the US a few days ago. It brought back so many memories. I am using my new potatoes sparingly. I want to eat them but keep them at the same time. I wanted to make something special with them. The stir-fried potato dish I am sharing with you today is very unique in taste. The beresta (fried onions) adds a smoky flavor to the dish. If you keep a box of beresta in the freezer, it will take just a few minutes to make it. I had them both with roti/paratha/flat bread and rice and daal, but with it tasted best with paratha. If you have to eat it with rice, try it with a slightly sour daal like aam daal.
Recipe: (courtesy Madhur Jaffrey)
Potatoes: around 2 pounds (best done with new potatoes)
Vegetable oil: ½ cup
Onion: one medium cut into very thin half rings
Dried round chilies: 15 nos. (any other variety of dried chilies will do as well)
Cumin seeds: 2 tsp.
Red chili powder/cayenne pepper: 1 tsp (or more if you like it hot)
Turmeric: 2 tsp.
Salt to taste
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into halves lengthwise (if you are using new potatoes, you can skip the peeling part. I didn’t peel them)
- Put them in a bowl full of water.
- Heat up the oil in a deep bottomed wok/kadai.
- Bring the flame to medium high and then put the sliced onions. Do not overcrowd the wok as it will bring down the oil temp. down and the onions will not turn out to be crispy.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander.
- Keep frying the onions until dark reddish brown in color. Do not burn them. You might have to put the flame down a little bit if you see the onions are going dark very quickly.
- Spread them on a paper towel for few seconds and then put them in a bowl. Do not keep the onions on the paper towel for a long time as they will soak the oil back from the towel and end up soggy (lesson learnt from experience).
- Fry all the onions like this and reserve them to be used later.
- Add the chilies in the same oil and fry them until they are one or two shades darker in color. Take them out from the oil and save them too.
- Take out almost all the oil and keep a couple table spoons in the wok.
- Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle a little bit.
- Add the sliced potatoes, turmeric, chili powder/cayenne pepper and saute them well on high heat for five minutes. Add salt.
- Bring the heat to very low and then cover the pot. Let the potatoes cook for another 10-15 minutes. Stir once or twice in between.
- Once the potatoes are done, crumble the onions and the chilies and add them to the potatoes. Stir for another minute or two and serve hot. You can use the chilies whole as garnish as well for a milder taste.