Aloo Kabli was the first street food love
Long before jhalmuri, bhelpuri and phuchka swayed my heart, there was aloo kabli. It is like the childhood crush and a slightly tingy feeling in the heart, before you turn teen. You don’t understand love then but you knew Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (as cheesy as it can be like KJo style) . Phuchka had to be had under strict supervision of parents – so that they can do a superficial hygiene check. Jhalmuri and bhelpuri was luxury and Bong kids were always warned about the sauce that goes into bhelpuri. Aloo kabli was the safest bet. I first had it at 25 paise per plate.
Aloo Kabli outside school
Outside my school in Chandannagore, there used to be two vendors – one Alu Kabli wala and one Bhelpuri seller. Every afternoon, when the school used to end, we found him eagerly waiting for us. The rickety guy, set up his stall on the top of a can stand, neatly waiting for the show time. Two inverted cones, one on top of other, that was one of the easiest things to draw in competitions later. It had boiled potatoes with skin, some chickpeas, tomatoes, onions and small containers with mixed spices and the magic potion of tamarind water. A dash of this and some drops of that and magic Alu kabli used to be ready.
Alu Kabli came back through Pujo reels
When Mallika Basu agreed to be a part of the Pujo reels, we took no time to agree on Alu Kabli. When we speak about street food, often Kolkata Kathi roll, phuchka, jhalmuri and others are spoken ahead of Alu Kabli. As Mallika glided though her steps and we came to know a lot about her childhood, my mind wandered back to my childhood days. The feeling of getting your first pocket money of 25 p / 50 p. Then the test of making the wise informed decision of where I can spend it. The first realisation of paying money for food and an instant transaction happening and the result is in hand. Aloo Kabli will always remain special.
Let’s dissect Aloo Kabli
When a food becomes popular and wide spread, improvisation and adaptation happen. The ingredients are like grammar which sets the structure yet each seller had their own twists and turns. The cuts remain same yet on a different board with a different knife. Many add sev puri or Jhuri bhaja but the ones which are closest to my heart and brightest in my memories are the ones without Sev Puri. Many add round tomato slices, I prefer both cucumber and tomato chopped in long wedges. The idea has never been to play the authentic nazi. So, set aside everything – pick up your Aloo Kabli. Perhaps, unlike many things, my parents were right – it’s simplest and healthiest snacks around.
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- 2 medium boiled potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 1 large tomato
- 3 inch cucumber
- 1/2 cup Bengal gram sprouts
- 1/2 cup boiled yellow peas
- 1 lemon ball sized tamarind pulp
- 1 tsp bhaja moshla see notes
- 2 nos green chillies
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- black salt to taste
- For boiling the yellow peas, you need to take half a cup of yellow peas and keep it soaked overnight. Then drain the water and pressure cook it for one whistle or 10 minutes. If it hasn't softened, just let it simmer for a few more minutes. The peas should have become soft but holding shape.
- Instead of sprouted Bengal gram, you can use boiled Bengal gram too.
- Soak the tamarin in 3 tbsps of water and keep aside.
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into round slices. Cut the tomatoes in slices and the onions in rings too. Chope the green chillies.
- In a mixing bowl, take all the vegetables, yellow peas and sprouts. Toss them. Add black salt. If you do not have black salt, use sea salt. Regular salt doesn't give the same effect.
- Add bhaja moshla, about half a tsp and the other half, sprinkle while serving.
- Squeeze in lemon juice and finally strain the tamarind water in the bowl. Add enough tamarind water to make the mixture wet.
- Give it all a good toss and serve in small bowls or sal leaf plates with toothpicks.