Made with baby potatoes, you might confuse it for dum aloo but the spices will prove you wrong.
Our country loves potatoes and how. Every nook and corner has a special potato dish being cooked up at some time of the day. Either they are made stand-alone or paired with another vegetable to spruce up the taste. From dry subzis to curries, from pulaos to biryanis, the humble potato has seen it all. However, do you know that potatoes were introduced to us by the Portuguese when they settled in parts of our land during the 17th century? It is hard to imagine that the same potatoes that were once a foreign reminisces are an integral part of our diverse cuisine.
Usually, when my mother is getting late for work and there isn’t much time to prepare a lavish lunch, she ends up making jeera aloo. She dices the potatoes into cubes, heats a pan with oil, adds some jeera, throws in the potatoes and sprinkles red chilli powder, turmeric and a few other spices to it. In a matter of a few minutes, the jeera aloo are ready. That’s what is amazing about potatoes, they can fit the bill for a fancy dish as well as a quick hack too. The southern parts of India enjoy eating their potatoes as much as we do.
Haven’t we all loved the tangy and spicy aloo masala that is stuffed into our dosas or the aloo curry that comes as part of a South Indian thali at a restaurant? Similarly, there is another way that the potatoes are used in their cooking. Well-known in the Chettinad cuisine, the urlai roast is a popular potato delicacy that is relished in the region. Just like your North Indian dum aloo, this dish also makes use of baby potatoes but the cooking method and spices are the game changers.
The smoky look and roasted texture of the potatoes or urlai makes it a hit among the locals. Chettinad cuisine hails from Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu and this recipe is an authentic amalgamation of native flavours. To begin with, whole spices like red chillies, black pepper and fennel seeds along with urad dal is dry roasted in a pan. Then it is ground into a powder after cooling. Meanwhile, chana dal is cooked along with mustard seeds and curry leaves in a separate pan in sesame oil. Once the tadka has been fried golden, the previously prepared masala is added to it along with salt and hing. Finally, the boiled baby potatoes are thrown and mixed well with these spices.
The potatoes slowly roast on low heat and once it is coated well, you can take it out in your serving bowl. This dish is a delicious pairing, to be enjoyed with rice and appams. Now, if you’re looking for lunch ideas, here is a step-by-step detailed recipe of Urlai roast.