A traditional recipe from Bihar/Bengal that revels in the heady potency of mustard. If you like the sharpness of mustard and mustard oil, you are in for a treat with sarson wale aloo (potatoes in mustard sauce).
As I made this curry I was reminded of the opening lines of a recent post on Sublime Palate, about influences that alter the nature of traditional recipes. In Bihar, the default cooking oil is mustard oil - many I know back home find dishes cooked in any other oil tasteless. Diametrically opposite are a some of my non-Bihari friends who will not come within 3 feet of any dish cooked in mustard oil.
I started to cook when I was sharing my apartment with friends from other regions in India, and we came to a common agreement to use peanut oil. That habit stuck, and now I use mustard oil only when I’m cooking an out-and-out east Indian dish such as sarson wale aloo. [Or shall we say, as they would in Bihar sarson wala aloo?]
- Potatoes – 4 medium, boiled
- Tomatoes – 3
- Water – 1 cup
- Mustard seeds* – 2 teaspoons
- Turmeric – 1/2 teaspoon
- Red chili powder – 1 teaspoon
- Garlic – 5 cloves
- Mustard oil – 1.5 tablespoons
*Black mustard seeds have a more pungent flavor than yellow mustard seeds. For a milder taste, use small-sized yellow mustard seeds.
Skin and slice the potatoes into 1/4 cm disks or crumble them coarsely.
Using the side of your knife, crush garlic. Chop tomatoes.
Dry-grind mustard seeds in the chutney grinder, or pound them into coarse powder using a mortar and pestle.
In a kadhai, heat mustard oil to smoking point.
Add garlic, when it turns golden add ground mustard. Set the heat to low. Let mustard fry and release its aroma – for about 30 seconds to a minute, make sure it does not burn.
Add chopped tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Cook covered for 5 minutes on medium heat.
Stir, add chopped potatoes and cook covered on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add a cup of water (more if you want the sauce thinner), bring to a boil and simmer covered for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Let it stand covered for another 15 minutes. Serve potatoes in mustard sauce with rice/rotis and raita.