Noted food writer and critic, Vir Sanghvi in his recent article has written that if he ever opened a restaurant based on Aloo or Potato dishes only, it will be called Batata Bhavan. If one skims through the list of dishes mentioned, there are 4 from Kolkata which feature. Potato was originally a Portuguese import popularised by the British in India. Without going much away from the plot, Vir’s list had potato chop which he explains as “A dish I grew fond of during my years in Calcutta. The Bengalis like to make a mashed potato cutlet with spicy keema in the centre. It is a concept that works across cuisines: shepherd’s pie is the same general idea. But the Bengalis do it so much better than anybody else”
While I agree that no one can make this better than Bengalis but in Bengal, the Potato chop or Aloor Chop does not have any filling. It is just mashed potato or Aloo Sheddho mixed with spices, dipped in a gram flour or besan batter and deep fried.As a child, every time I was sent to buy telebhaja (as deep fried street food is coloquially known as), I had to check if it was amish or niramish (niramish being vegetarian with the exclusion of even onion and garlic). That was meant for my granny who was a widow following all rituals. Chandannagore has a high concentration of telebhaja shops with an astounding variety of deep fried fritters. Aloor chop can be made with fried onions and garlic added to the mashed potato with choices of spices like ground pepper, coriander powder,cumin powder, fried dry red chilies and crushed to make chili flakes and so on. An acquaintance from Mangalore confirmed that in Mangalore Catholic cuisine, potato chops usually refer to minced meat encased in a potato mash & fried. The same in Kolkata will typically be called a Mangshor Chop. Another important part is that in most of the cases, Aloor chop can be made with either bread crumbs or with besan coating.
Where is the twist in the plot here? Aloor chop has always been the easy evening snack. These day however, the shape has changed from a round patty to a round ball. I am not talking about Kolkata but my own home kitchen. The surprise is small bits of shrimps every now and then in the aloor chop. The entire thing is soft like a pillow and the par boiled prawns with its sweet taste and unique texture adds another layer to the humble aloor chop. This is definitely an aloor chop or potato chop with a twist.
Rains have been eluding West Bengal for long this year only till yesterday and Kolkata saw one of the hottest summers for this season . A cup of tea, the petrichor, sounds of pitter patter on your window sill and inside your heart too and some Aloor chop with a twist – you are sorted out.
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Kolkata style Aloor Chop with a twist / Mashed potato fritters with prawn
- 400 gms Boiled Potatoes
- 1 no large onion finely chopped
- 1 no large tomato de seeded and finely chopped
- 4 nos garlic colves finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp Red Chili Powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 4 nos curry leaves finely chopped
- 150 gms small prawns cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup besan
- 1/4 cup water
- salt as per taste
- oil for deep frying
- In a frying pan, take 1 1/2 tbsp of oil and heat it. Add curry leaves, onions, garlic and tomatoes in that oil. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder and chili powder.
- Add the prawns and lightly sautee them till the prawns are cooked. Then crumble the potatoes with your hand and add to the frying pan. Sprinkle some salt and mix thoroughly.
- Turn off the heat and using your hand, mix it all together like a nice smooth dough.
- Make small round balls, the size of a small lemon.
- Now take some oil in a kadai and heat it.
- While the oil is getting hot, make a light batter with the besan and the water. Do not add all the water instantly. The quantity of the water required should be judged by you. Add little by little till you have a batter which will easily coat the potatoes.
- Add a pinch of salt to it too.
- Now when the oil is hot, dip the potato rounds into the batter and deep fry them till golden brown. Control the temperature so as to not burn the outer shell.
- Serve it with some green chillies and a cup of tea or coffee.