Recipes for Mumbai’s Favourite Foods
Bring the flavour of Mumbai home with these recipes from Sanjeev Kapoor’s cookbook How to Cook Indian.
Mumbai’s colourful history is told through its diverse food culture. The city has always been known for its street food, but you can taste the best of Mumbai’s food carts and local delicacies at home. According to food writer Monica Bhide, street food favourites such as batata vada and bhel puri are the tastiest ways to sample the culture and flavour of Mumbai. The recipes for these and more come from chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s cookbook How to Cook Indian (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2011).
Batata Vada (Batter-Fried Potato Dumplings)
I am not sure which sells more in Mumbai—batata vadas or McDonald’s hamburgers. But given a choice, I would go for batata vadas laced with dry red garlic chutney.
6 small potatoes
1-inch (2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, chopped
6 cloves garlic
4 or 5 green chillis, stemmed and chopped
1½ cups (150 grams) besan (chickpea/gram flour)
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 tablespoon table salt
Pinch of baking soda
4 teaspoons plus 4 cups (800 ml) vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
Pinch of asafetida
10 to 12 fresh curry leaves
Wash and scrub the potatoes well. Put 4 cups (800 ml) water in a deep saucepan and place over medium heat. When the water begins to boil, add the potatoes and cook, covered, for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain in a colander and let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, peel the potatoes; then mash them using a potato masher. Set aside.
Put the ginger, garlic and chillis in a mini food processor with 2 tablespoons water and process to a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a small bowl and set aside.
Place the besan in a deep bowl. Add the chilli powder, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the baking soda. Add about ½ cup water (you can add more as needed) and whisk well to make a smooth, lump-free batter. It should not be too thick.
Place a medium non-stick sauté pan over medium heat and add 3 teaspoons of the oil. When small bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, add the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the mashed potatoes and the turmeric, and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the cilantro and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt. Stir well and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
Place a small non-stick sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 teaspoon of the oil. When small bubbles appear at the bottom of the pan, add the mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the asafetida and curry leaves. Immediately pour the spices over the potato mixture and stir well. Let cool to room temperature. Once cooled, divide the mixture into 16 portions and shape each into a smooth ball.
Place a wok over high heat and add the remaining 4 cups (800 ml) oil. When small bubbles appear at the bottom of the wok, dip 4 of the potato balls in the besan batter, one at a time, and gently slide them into the hot oil; do not overcrowd the wok. Lower the heat to medium and fry, spooning a little oil over the balls with a slotted spoon, until they are light golden brown. Remove with the slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining potato balls.
Serve immediately with a chutney of your choice.
Sanjeev Kapoor’s tip: If you have leftover besan batter, you can dip thin, round slices of potato or green pepper in the batter and deep-fry until golden. These are called bhajias.