Noted food writer and critic, Vir Sanghvi in his recent article has written that if he ever opened a restaurant based on Aloo or Potato dishes only, it will be called Batata Bhavan. If one skims through the list of dishes mentioned, there are 4 from Kolkata which feature. Potato was originally a Portuguese import popularised by the British in India. Without going much away from the plot, Vir’s list had aloor chop. He explains it as “A dish I grew fond of during my years in Calcutta. The Bengalis like to make a mashed potato cutlet with spicy keema in the centre. It is a concept that works across cuisines: shepherd’s pie is the same general idea. But the Bengalis do it so much better than anybody else”
Kolkata style Alur chop has no parallel
While I agree that no one can make this better than Bengalis but in Bengal, aloor chop does not have any filling. It is just mashed potato or Aloo Sheddho mixed with spices. Then it is dipped in a gram flour or besan batter and deep fried. As a child I was always given the responsibility of buying alur chop from the telebhaja shop around the corner. I had to check if it was amish or niramish (niramish being vegetarian with the exclusion of even onion and garlic). That was meant for my granny who was a widow following all rituals. Aloor chop can be made with fried onions and garlic too. In addition to that, there would be spices like ground pepper, bhaja moshla, fried dry red chilies and crushed to make chili flakes and so on.
An acquaintance from Mangalore confirmed that in Mangalore Catholic cuisine, potato chops usually refer to minced meat encased in a potato mash & fried. The same in Kolkata will typically be called a Mangshor Chop. Another important part is that in most of the cases, Aloor chop can be made with either bread crumbs or with besan coating.
So what’s the twist?
Where is the twist in the plot here? Aloor chop has always been the easy evening snack. These day however, the shape has changed from a flat disc patty to a round ball. I am not talking about Kolkata but my own home kitchen. The surprise is small bits of shrimps every now and then in the aloor chop. The entire thing is soft like a pillow and the par boiled prawns with its sweet taste and unique texture adds another layer to the humble aloor chop. This is definitely an aloor chop or potato chop with a twist.
Rains have been eluding West Bengal for long this year. Kolkata saw one of the hottest summers for this season yesterday. So, a cup of tea, the petrichor, sounds of pitter patter on your window sill is what you crave for. Top that with some Aloor chop with a twist and you are sorted out.
You can find the recipe of Bhaja Moshla, which is an integral part of Alur chop here.
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Kolkata style Aloor Chop with a twist/ Mashed potato fritters with prawn
- 400 gms Boiled Potatoes
- 1 no large onion finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic paste
- 1 1/2 tsp Bhaja Moshla Alternately, you can use roasted cumin powder (see notes)
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 3 nos dry red chilies
- 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 150 gms small prawns cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup besan
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup water
- salt as per taste
- oil for deep frying
- Add turmeric powder and a bit of salt to the prawns and keep aside.
- Grate the potatoes and keep aside. In a frying pan take 2 tbsp of oil and lightly sautee the prawns and keep aside.
- In the same frying pan, lightly saute the chopped onions and add the grated boiled potatoes. Mix them well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes of high flame and then turn off the heat.
- In a mixing bowl, take the potato mix and add bhaja moshla, salt to taste.
- In the frying pan, once again take 1 tsp of oil and when it becomes hot, add the dry red chilies. Fry them till they are crispy and then take them out. Crush them with a spoon and then sprinkle that in the potato mix. Add grated ginger to the potato mix.
- Now mash everything well and keep aside.
- Make a batter with the besan, garlic paste, baking soda and salt. Add little water and whisk it well. Then add 1 tbsp to 2 tbsp of the potato mash and whisk again. The batter should be smooth and thick. Not too thick, just enough to coat the potatoes. Do not add all the water instantly. The quantity of the water required should be judged by you.
- Add the prawns to the mash and make small balls of lemon size and keep them ready to be fried. Kolkata aloor chop is normally a flattened disc but this is how we make it.
- Now take oil in a kadai and heat it for deep frying.
- Now when the oil is hot, dip the potato rounds into the batter and deep fry them till golden brown. Control the temperature so as to not burn the outer shell.
- Serve it with some green chillies and a cup of tea or coffee.
- Bhaja moshla is a spice mix that is a pantry staple for Bengalis. You will find the recipe of bhaja moshla in the blog. Link is pasted in the blogpost above.