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Indian Stuffed Potato Shells

My childhood neighbor in Mumbai (Bombay), Mrs. Chandwani, whose ancestral roots were embedded in Sindh (now Pakistan), purchased her aloo tikki chaat (stuffed potato patties) from the same woman, also a Sindhi, every week for fifteen years. It was her way of showing support for the hardworking widowed mother of two. It was also her opportunity to complain, in Sindhi, about the growing cost of vegetables, and about not being able to see her children and grandchildren often enough.

Years later those potato patties made it into my American kitchen, with the traditional filling that so appealed to Mrs. Chandwani. Because they’re stuffed, these patties are very substantial and can easily be the centerpiece for an evening dinner. The night I made them it was only my six-year-old son Robert and I at the table, and he queried, “That’s all you are giving me, Papa?” Once I assured him that he could have as many patties as he wanted, he gobbled down four more, full-bodied sauces and all.

If you wish to simplify this appetizer, make just two of the sauces: the Mint-Yogurt and the Tamarind-Date.–Raghavan Iyer

Indian Stuffed Potato Shells Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • 2 H
  • Serves 6

Ingredients

  • For the mint yogurt sauce
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 6 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or Serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 1 lengthwise slice fresh ginger ( 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide and 1/8 inch thick)
  • For the red chile, garlic, shallot sauce
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 20 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots or red onion
  • 1 teaspoon white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 6 medium-size cloves garlic
  • For the tamarind-date sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste or concentrate
  • 1/4 cup crumbled or chopped jiggery or firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 10 pitted dates (each about 2 inches long), coarsely chopped
  • For the yogurt sauce with black salt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black salt
  • For the chaat masala
  • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried pomegranate seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mango powder
  • 2 teaspoons black salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • For the sauces
  • 1/4 cup Mint-Yogurt Sauce with Chiles
  • 1/4 cup Red Chile, Garlic, and Shallot Sauce
  • 3/4 cup Sweet-Tart Tamarind-Date Sauce
  • 3/4 cup Yogurt Sauce with Black Salt
  • For the potato shells
  • 1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, boiled until tender, and mashed
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • 4 to 6 slices firm white bread
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • For the filling
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup red cowpeas or whole green lentils (sabud moong), partially sprouted or store-bought bean sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 teaspoon Toasted Cumin-Coriander Blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
  • About 6 tablespoons canola oil, for frying
  • Chaat masala, for dusting

Directions

  • Make the mint yogurt sauce
  • 1. Pour 1/4 cup water into a blender jar, and then pile in the remaining ingredients. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, until it forms a smooth, bright green sauce.
  • 2. Store this minty-hot sauce in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
  • Make the red chile, garlic, shallot sauce
  • 3. Pour the boiling water over the chiles in a small bowl, and set aside until the chiles have softened and the water has turned light reddish-orange, 1 to 2 hours.
  • 4. Drain the chiles, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
  • 5. Pour the reserved liquid into a blender jar, and then add the chiles and all the remaining ingredients. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, until it forms a smooth, orange-red, pulpy paste.
  • 6. Transfer this knock-your-socks-off-hot sauce to a tightly sealed container and refrigerate it for up to 5 days, or freeze it for up to 1 month.
  • Make the tamarind-date sauce
  • 7. Pour 1 1/2 cups water into a small saucepan, add the tamarind, and whisk until it has dissolved and formed a tart, muddy brown liquid. Add the jiggery and dates, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated by almost half, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool for about 5 minutes.
  • 8. Transfer the dark brown, thin sauce and cooked-but-chunky dates to a blender jar and puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, until it forms a pancake-batter-thick, milk-chocolate-colored, tart-sweet sauce.
  • 9. Transfer the sauce to a tightly sealed container (preferably glass, stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic because of the highly acidic tamarind) and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  • Make the yogurt sauce with black salt
  • 10. Whisk the yogurt, sugar, and black salt together in a small bowl. Transfer the sweet-tasting sauce (with an aroma similar to that of hard-boiled eggs, thanks to the black salt) to a tightly sealed container and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. (I do not recommend freezing it).
  • Make the chaat masala
  • 11. Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cumin seeds into the hot pan and toast, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until they start to crackle, turn reddish brown, and are highly fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the toasted cumin to a spice grinder or coffee grinder, and allow it to cool completely.
  • 12. Add the pomegranate seeds and peppercorns to the cumin, and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.
  • 13. Transfer the ground spices to a small bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients, the blend will be light brown in color. Store in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 2 months.
  • Make the shells
  • 14. Place the mashed potatoes and salt in a large bowl. Hold the bread slices under running water to drench them, and then squeeze out as much water as possible. You should end up with a rolled-up wad of moist but firm bread. Work the bread into the potato mixture by squeezing handfuls of potato and bread together to blend them and then kneading the mixture, creating a slightly sticky dough; the softer the bread, the more slices you will need to get the right consistency. (This technique of creating instant dough with moist bread slices works well as a binder to hold the patties together while pan-frying.) Rub the oil over the dough and allow it to rest, covered with plastic wrap or with a clean, moistened paper towel, for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Make the filling
  • 15. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry until it is light brown around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • 16. Add the sprouted peas, cilantro, spice blend, cayenne, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, to warm up the sprouts and cook the spices, about 2 minutes. Set the filling aside.
  • 17. To assemble the potato shells, use your hands to shape the dough into a 12-inch-long log. Cut it, crosswise, into twelve 1-inch-thick pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Working with one piece at a time, flatten it between the palms of your hands and shape it with your fingers into a dumpling-like wrapper roughly 3 inches in diameter and ¼ inch thick. Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Gather the edges and bring them together to the center, pinching the seam to seal it tightly, forming a mound that looks like a Hershey’s Kiss. Gently flatten the top, making sure the filling stays completely covered. Press and shape it into a patty roughly 3 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. Set it aside on a plate, and repeat with the remaining rounds.
  • 18. Line a large plate or a cookie sheet with several layers of paper towels.
  • 19. Heat about 3 tablespoons canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Arrange 6 potato patties in a single layer in the skillet (do not crowd them), and cook until they are golden brown and crisp on the underside, about 5 minutes. Flip them over to cook the other side until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked patties to the paper-towel-lined plate, and repeat with the remaining patties, adding more oil as needed.
  • 20. Place 2 patties on each individual serving plate. Atop each patty, spoon 1 teaspoon of the Mint-Yogurt Sauce, followed by 1 teaspoon Red Chile Sauce, 1 tablespoon Tamarind-Date Sauce, and finally 1 tablespoon Yogurt Sauce. A little cilantro and a light dusting of the chaat masala complete the layered creation. Instruct everyone to fork right through to get the complete package in each addictive mouthful.

Tips

  • The secret to making this a quick deal is to have all the sauces prepared a few days ahead of time. Each sauce takes no more than 5 minutes to assemble, and some barely 2 minutes.
  • It takes 3 to 4 days to sprout the cowpeas or lentils, so you’ll want to start them ahead of time—or simply substitute store-bought bean sprouts. If the sprouts are long, I would recommend coarsely chopping them so they don’t poke out of the potato patties when they are stuffed with the filling.
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