This recipe and story first appeared as a guest post on Scissors & Spice. Thanks again, Lynn!
Dum Aloo is one of many unsung heroes of Indian vegetarian cooking, with paneer, kofta, and mixed veg dishes usually stealing the spotlight. If you like potatoes and enjoy creamy, tomato-based curries, this delicious wonder will win you over. Soon you’ll be cooking it regularly and looking out for it on menus.
When I lived in Amravati, India, teaching Art and English for a year at a Cambridge International School, I quickly made friends with much of the neighborhood. From the first day, I was invited to family meals and constantly got amazing offers of home-cooked lunches. It was culinary heaven!
I learned so much about traditional Indian cooking (and a lot of Hindi) from the family of one of the local vegetable cart vendors who lived down the street. In the evenings, I’d often hear a knock at the door or get a short text message, and within minutes the kitchen was alive: full of cheery voices, sizzling sounds, amazing smells, and the incredible, vivid colors of spices and fresh vegetables.
Vaishu showed up one evening with a bag of potatoes and tomatoes. I admit, I was a bit skeptical. We’d been focusing on Marathi, Sindhi, and Gujarati knock-out dishes for a few weeks with her best friend, who often led the cooking lessons. They promised to teach me something fantastic that night, and my doubts quickly vanished. I watched anxiously, taking notes and asking questions. I cut vegetables and they worked the two burners of the propane stove with expertise, speed, and agility that was breathtaking. The dinner was incredible. I was invited for lunch a few days later and Vaishu cooked it again in her most basic of kitchens. Once more, I was blown away, and felt mildly guilty packing my lunchbox tiffin with the leftover curry and wholewheat chapatti. She insisted!
The next week, I took my first crack at it. Using notes, memory, and a bit of luck, I managed to re-create the dish on my own. When it was almost done, I turned off the burners, covered the pots and texted Vaishu. She came directly over with her friend. We sat down on the floor with the hot Dum Aloo and turmeric-yellow basmati rice steaming away on the shiny, stainless steel plates. After some brief catch-up and the usual laughter, we began to eat. With our hands, of course.
Licking the last remnants of spicy curry off her fingers, Vaishu turned to her friend and said, “He asked the neighbors for help, it was too good!” I smiled, and with my best Hindi replied, “No, no! I made it! You taught me well!”
And we laughed some more.
Dum Aloo – North Indian Tomato Potato Curry
- 2 medium / 160 g tomatoes chopped
- 1 small red onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1″ / 2 cm fresh ginger chopped
- 1/3 cup / 40 g cashews
- 1 + 1/2 cup / 360 ml water
- 2 Tbs oil
- 1 tsp coriander ground
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 4-5 medium or 10-12 small / 1 lb / 450 g potatoes peeled, chopped in large chunks
- 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 1 Tbs tomato paste
- 2 Tbs chickpea flour
- 1 Tbs sugar or agave syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh coriander leaves chopped for garnish
- Soak cashews in 1/2 cup water, 30 min.
- Puree chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, cashews + soaking water until smooth in food processor or blender.
- Heat oil on medium-high heat in a large pot.
- Add ground coriander, cumin, garam masala, asafoetida to oil. Fry for 1 min.
- Add chopped potatoes, turmeric. Fry, stirring regularly, 5-7 min.
- Reduce heat to medium, add lemon juice and tomato paste. Stir well, continue to cook 2-3 min.
- Add pureed ingredients, stir well. Cook until potatoes are almost done and sauce reduces, 5-7 min.
- Add 1 cup water, chickpea flour, sugar, salt. Return to simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, cook for 5 min.
- Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve with basmati rice or chapati.
Vedic style: Omit garlic and onion, add 1 small tomato to puree, and fry 1 tsp brown mustard seeds along with other spices before adding potatoes. Rich and creamy: use 1 cup soy milk or coconut milk in place of 1 cup water. Spicy kick: Add 1 chopped red chili or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes with the other spices before adding potatoes.