Mashla Alu bhaja (Bengali style spicy potato dry dish)

8:34 PM

Every morning around 5.30 I would wake with a gentle nudge on my leg. It's Dida gently calling my name for the morning tea session in their second floor room. Though the huge kitchen was in the first floor but in the morning she and Dadu loved to make tea on their kerosene stove and drink it quietly. The veranda adjacent to the bed room had beautiful filigree and the morning sun loved to play hide and seek their creating pretty patterns on the deep red oxide floor. The pond beyond that had almost apple green water and the favourite place for morning birds to flock on the coconut trees and chirp incessantly. While I sleepily will take the stairs, Dadu will wake up the little sister only 4 or 5 back then. We would sit cross legged on the floor in a tight circle, dida facing us with her kerosene stove. She quietly will go about her morning tea ceremony. Steeping the Darjeeling tea till it turns dark amber in colour, stirring little sugar and then pouring milk. We will watch in awe how beautifully the amber turns into a milky caramely hue. Then she would sprinkle some water on the stove and we eventually would bend down to smell that smoke coming off the kerosene soaked wick. when the tea would be served we would first dunk our biscuit in them and then will drink the lukewarm tea in long slurpy sips. While Dida and dadu will go about their work afterwards, we eventually will go back to sleep again, this time in Dadu's bed. 

Soon the house will be abuzzed with many sounds. The khas khas sound of the broom, thup thup sound of  the clothes being beaten on the concrete around the pond edge. the loud chant of the priest and the ting ting sound of his bell, the jingling sound of dadu's cycle on his way to the market, the loud start of Mama's bike...all punctuating with Dida and Mami's conversation around the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. 

I loved all these but what I dint like is the breakfast that followed. Doi-chire-aam or dudh-muri-Kola had never been my favourite especially when I knew soon the farmworkers will come for their morning breakfast. They would sit in a straight line besides the stair case and will slurp up their meager breakfast of Panta bhat or broken rice congee. I loved this meal, especially the spicy mashed potato or new potato fry along with the tamarind chutney which accompanied the meal. Though Dadu was quite strict of kids having milk and fruits in the morning somehow I would bribe Dida to at least give me some masla alu bhaja (spicy fried potato) with my muri. She knew I eventually will drink gallons of water and suck through my teeth for hours to appease the heat but she would oblige me none the less. I knew it too but nothing could stop me from relishing that deliciousness morsel by morsel albeit with a jugful of water.

Today almost at 40 I still carry my love for morning tea and spicy alu bhaja. Though the grand parents are long gone but where ever they are they must be very pleased with themselves for teaching us well.

So here goes this simple recipe. A completely peasant style recipe where tiny potatoes which are not possible to peel are used up. I have kept the chilli quantity in control but in real world this is cooked with freshly made red chili (dried) paste.

Masla alu bhaja

Very tine new potatoes, size of marble (You can cook with normal potatoes too in that case cut them in small cubes): 1 cup
Onion Paste: 1/3 cup (Made out of 2 medium size onions)
Chili paste or powder: 11/2 tbsp (more or less as per your choice)
Oil: preferably mustard oil: 3 tbsp

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and scrub the skin to get rid of all dirt. Cut them in quarters or if they are bigger then cut them in 6 or 8.
Now steam or boil the potatoes till they are almost cooked. drain and wash they again. Drain properly.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom kadhai and add the potatoes. on medium high fry the potatoes with salt and turmeric for 3-4 of minutes. stir in between. Add the onion paste, chili paste and cook by stirring for another 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell is gone. 
Test if the potatoes are cooked through and taste to adjust seasoning.

Serve with Khichuri or dal chawal. I love it with everything from paratha to roti to rice porridge. It;s something that sets my tastebuds on fire and on a particular gloomy day definitely brightens my spirit.

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  1. Kal i khabo.. Panta with alur tarkari

  2. These are the memories to be cherished forever! Lovely read ❤️

  3. Aloo vaja is one of the easiest but delicious bengali recipe.


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