Sunday, February 10, 2013

Aloo ko Achaar - Potato Salad

Aloo ko Achaar - (आलू को अचार) - Spicy Potato Salad with Sesame Seeds


Spicy aloo ko achaar from Jyoti's Kitchen - A delicious dish made with classic ingredients and freshly picked baby red potatoes
Potato achaar is a popular, addictively delicious, refreshing potato salad dish from Nepal.  Only rarely have I come across a traditional Nepali meal that is served without potato achaar.  It is a very flexible and popular potato dish often served as a side dish with Nepali staple Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari. It can be served at any time of the day as a snack food with cheura or chewra (pressed rice flakes), sel-roti (fried rice bread) and poori (deep-fried puffed bread),  for family gatherings, picnics and other casual functions or festive gatherings.   For a  Nepali bhoj,  ceremonial and formal occasions feast,  aloo ko achaar is a must item.  A large quantity of potato salads are prepared that accompanies other ceremonial food items. 

Aloo ko achaar is a versatile dish that can be served at room temperature. There are so many versions of aloo ko achaar throughout the country and each family has their own recipes depending upon their individual style and specialty.  While preparing the traditional achaar, some people add thinly sliced cucumbers, finely cut radish, refreshing crisp asparagus, spring onions, thinly sliced red onions, steamed banana blossoms, cubed bell peppers, hariyo saano kerau (field peas), green or yellow dried peas, and even sprouted mung beans.  There are endless variations and the list goes on and on.

I always wanted to post this recipe for a long time, but somehow it was never done.  I have prepared this dish very often in many variations, and I absolutely love it. For the following recipe, use any variety of potato that keeps its shape when boiled.  Baking potatoes are not recommended because they produce a dry, starchy achaar.  The potatoes should not be overcooked or undercooked.  Try to use freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, as the bottled lemon juice with the preservatives take away the flavor of achaar.

The following recipe has a simple ingredients and a quick preparation, so that you can have a delicious achaar in no time.  Grab some potatoes, brown sesame seeds, fresh lemons, bell pepper, and other combinations of seasonings  and let me show you how.....

Ingredients
8 to 10 small boiling potatoes (about 3 pounds)
6 fresh (hot or mild) green chili peppers, each halved lengthwise
1 to 2 bunches cilantro leaves, tender stems (fresh coriander), washed well and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice or as needed
1 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
Salt to taste
1/2 cup brown sesame seeds
2 dried red chilies, halved and seeded
1/4 teaspoon timmur (Szechwan pepper)
3 tablespoons mustard oil or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon jimbu strands (Himalayan herb), sorted
1 medium red or green bell pepper, cored and cut into cubes (about 1/2 cups
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
A generous pinch ground asafetida (about 1/8 teaspoon)

Preparation Instructions
In a medium saucepan, place the potatoes and enough water to cover, and bring it to boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and continue cooking until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  Drain, and when cool enough to handle, peel and cut the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.  Do not pour cold water over them to cool the potatoes, as this will water down their flavor.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl and combine them with the green chilies, cilantro, lemon juice, red pepper, and salt and mix well.  Set aside.

Heat a small skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds, dried chilies and timmur, and dry-roast them, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent the seeds from flying over, until they give off a pleasant aroma and sesame seeds are a few shades darker, about 3 minutes.  Remove the spices from the skillet and pour them into a dry container to stop from further roasting and let them cool.  Then transfer the spices to a spice grinder and grind to make fine powder.  Add the ground spices and 1/2 cup of water to the potato mixture and mix well.

Heat the mustard oil in a small skillet over medium high-heat.  When the oil is faintly smoking, add fenugreek and jimbu, and fry until dark brown and fragrant, about 5 seconds.  Add the bell pepper, ginger, turmeric, and asafetida and fry for 1 minute.  Pour the entire contents over the potatoes and mix thoroughly.  Taste and adjust the seasonings and lemon juice.  Cover the bowl and let the potato achaar stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to absorb the seasonings, stirring occasionally.  Transfer the achaar to a serving dish and serve.

Variation Note: To give an extra twist to aloo achaar - as a variation you can add 2 cups of freshly chopped cucumbers, 1/2 cup soaked dried whole green peas, 1 cup freshly steamed asparagus or any ingredients of your choice.

A well seasoned aloo ko achaar made with a combination of slightly steamed fresh asparagus, dry-roasted sesame seeds, Szechwan peppers, with mustard oil tempering of fenugreek seeds, jimbu (Himalayan herb), and turmeric powder.
Spicy aloo ko Achaar made for outdoor picnic - the red khursaani (cayenne pepper) and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)  adds a little color and flavor to the dish.
Festive aloo ko achaar served at a Nepali bhoj  - with a tomato rose garnish that adds beautiful touch making this dish attractive.
Most delicious Thakali Aloo Achaar from Tukuche: The Thakali Kitchen. 
Savoring the most delicious Thakali food with uniquely flavored and textured aloo ko achaar, generously seasoned with ground timmur (Szechwan pepper).

Serving the most traditional Nepali meal - specialties of the house include khasi ko maasu (goat curry), aloo-taama-bodi ko tarkaari (bamboo shoots, potatoes and black-eyed beans), bangoor ko chowela (pork chowela) with flavorful  aloo ko achaar made with the addition of dried (soaked) yellow peas, green chili pepper, and refreshing crisp cucumber slices, but - where is the steamed rice?
This full-flavored aloo ko achaar is made with diced cucumbers, chopped green bell peppers, dried yellow peas (soaked), jalapeno peppers, and tempered with fenugreek seeds.  The cucumber gives to the dish a fresh crunchy flavor.
A colorful aloo ko achaar -  red from the radish, green from the scallion and fresh coriander, and the white from the onions adds a refreshing touch to this dish.
The less spicy version of aloo ko achaar is typically served over a drink as an appetizer.  It is a very versatile  dish that one can make, and each family has their own version.  It is enjoyed leisurely any time of the day.
 The scallions and fresh green coriander (cilantro) adds a refreshing touch to this aloo ko achaar.
25-minutes Aloo ko achaar - This simple dish is flavored with just a basic ingredients, dry-roasted sesame seeds, chili powder, lemon juice and tempered with fenugreek seeds and jimbu (Himalayan herb).  If you are looking for a great tasting and lighter version of aloo ko achaar, this is the recommended choice.
Aloo ko achaar made with steamed banana blossoms (kera ko bungo), green chillies, fresh coriander (cilantro), and tempered with fenugreek seeds, turmeric and jimbu.  The unique flavor of banana blossoms adds a texture and a special touch to this dish.  
Enjoy Nepali dinner from Jyoti's kitchen

Close up image of Daal-Bhaat-Tarkari from my kitchen

Listed below are some of the useful and informative links about Aloo ko Achaar and check out several beautiful youtube tutorial on how to make this achaar.

Aloo ko Achaar - Authentic Nepali potato pickle video - from Atul Sikand - (published on Dec 2012) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHAPcb68jKQ - to watch the video, please click here.

From Sita's kitchen - Aloo ko Achaar with peas to serve with sel-roti (published Oct 2011) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYyeAPKwaFI - to watch the video, please click here.

Aloo Til Ko Achaar - Spicy Potato Salad - from babucooking -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9QiQa5FbG0 - to watch the video, please click here.

Nepali Food Achaar - (in Nepali) - Mukti Ram Pokhrel - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RqSlfeoTAc - to watch video, please click here.

Chukauni or Chukauni Achaar  - (चुकौनी) - yogurt and potato achaar from Palpa district)  - http://www.weallnepali.com/recipe - to see the recipe, please click here.


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