What makes Old Delhi’s street food so good? Why can I no longer imagine life without Gupta’s aloo tikki, Moinuddin’s beef kebabs, Ashok and Ashok’s korma? It’s partly, I believe, because many of the vendors’ dishes are like supercharged home cooking, full of everything nutritionists nag us about – sugar, fat, salt and carbohydrates – designed to provide solace as well as sustenance to diners with limited means. Many of these are migrant workers, mostly from poor rural areas who flock to the city to work as rickshaw wallahs, porters and day labourers, send most of their earnings back home, sleep where they drop, and can often only afford to eat one cheap meal a day. For a few rupees, that meal has to provide enough nutrition and energy to keep them on their feet all day, but it also has to soothe the soul and revive flagging spirits.
- 500 gm potatoes, boiled in their skins
- 50 gm fresh peas, boiled until tender
- 4 tbsp breadcrumbs (optional but the Japanese ‘Panko’ variety make the tikkis nice and crisp)
- 2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- ½ tsp roasted ground cumin
- ½ tsp dried mango powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp red chilli powder
- Yogurt, coriander chutney and tamarind chutney to serve
- Grate the potatoes into a large bowl and add the cumin, mango powder, chilli powder, salt and plain flour. Mix well then adjust the seasoning to taste. Divide into 4 and shape each portion into a ball. Make a depression in the ball with your thumb and fill with ¼ of the peas. Fold the potato around the peas, roll into a ball then flatten slightly. Pat some breadcrumbs (if using) all over the surface of the tikkis.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a high heat and when hot add the tikkis. Cook for one minute then flip over and cook for another minute. Reduce the temperature and cook the tikkis until very crisp, flipping them over every minute or so.
- When the tikkis reach your desired level of crispness, serve with your favourite topping.
Excerpted with permission from Korma, Kheer and Kismet: Five Seasons in Old Delhi, Pamela Timms, Aleph Book Company.