Sukhi Bhaji (Dry Potato Curry)

This academic year is drawing to a close, which means that I won’t be back in London until next January. Projects have culminated brilliantly in the past few months (you can see my work here or through the Behance icon on the right), but that’s also synonymous with having less time to dawdle in produce stalls, arrange sliced onions neatly on a chopping board, and wait patiently for instances of natural light to photograph my meals. In my last-minute scramble to cross off the restaurants and food markets on my wishlist, I’ve neglected the kitchen a bit… but the exciting news is that I’ll soon be traveling to Thailand for 20 days before flying home to Florida and then New York City for an exchange program in the Fall term—that means new food adventures and an onslaught of regional inspirations for Wandercrush! It seems the excitement is debilitating, as I haven’t started to pack yet…

Sukhi Bhaji spices

One thing I won’t miss is the kitchen I share with 6 other students, sticky and stained. We’ve had an undeniably good time in there with sushi-rolling parties and jack-o-lantern carving, but I can’t overlook the perpetually self-replicating stack of dirty dishes, fridge territory warfare, and unphotogenic tabletops pock-marked from so many years of wear. Student accommodation isn’t the most glamourous. My living arrangements for next year are still up in the air, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for big windows and gas stovetops. It still won’t be glamorous, but I hope I can call it my own.

As much as I look forward to a new kitchen, I’m not as confident about finding flatmates that are equally wonderful as this lot. This recipe comes straight from my Indian flatmate, who grew up in the UK but cooks consistently amazing Indian food that always shrouds the shabby kitchen in a blanket of homeliness and comfort. In anticipation of my future deprivation and inevitable craving of his food, I asked him to walk me through this simple dry potato curry that always seems to be waiting mercifully atop the stove when I burst into the kitchen ravenously at 2am.

Cumin seeds for Sukhi Bhaji

You might be more familiar with jeera aloo, which is Hindi; sukhi bhaji or batata nu shaak is a traditional dish in the Gujarat state of India, but it’s essentially the same idea—a spicy and flavourful dry potato curry, cooked in tempered oil. Tempering (completely different from the chocolate-related tempering), or tadka, is something used very often in Indian cooking, and it’s the method responsible for those irresistible smells that permeate through the kitchen walls. By heating whole spices and seeds in fats with high smoke points, like peanut oil or ghee, much of the flavours and aromas are extracted and infused into the rest of the dish.

Jersey Royal Potatoes for Sukhi Bhaji

You can make this with any potato variety, but I had the luxury to choose from all the UK options, which are particularly abundant (you can read more about that here in my hasselback potato post). Jersey Royals were discovered around 1880 by Hugh de la Haye and pack a huge punch of flavour, despite their small size and frail, papery skin. They’re exclusively grown on Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, but 99% are shipped to their lucky neighbours in the UK. They’re covered by a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), so the same variety grown elsewhere are referred to as “international kidney potatoes,” which sounds significantly less royal. Furthermore, it’s the location that gives these potato their famous taste; the island’s topography slopes from north to south, ensuring good drainage and exposing crops to direct sunshine during the growing season. Locally collected seaweed called vraic is used as a region-specific fertiliser. Talk about terroir!

Sukhi Bhaji

Sukhi Bhaji (Dry Potato Curry)
(serves 2-4)

  • 1 T oil with high smoke point
  • 2 dried red chilies (optional)
  • ½ t mustard seeds
  • ½ t cumin seeds
  • 1 T sesame seeds or 2 T crushed peanuts (optional)
  • Pinch of asofotida (hing)
  • 2 T coriander/cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 green chili pepper, halved lengthwise
  • 450g (1lb) potatoes (I used Jersey Royals)
  • ¼ t garam masala
  • ¼ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t ground coriander
  • ¼ t tumeric
  • salt, to taste

Thoroughly wash and cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces that will cook evenly. Boil until tender while preparing your other ingredients (no time for waffling once the oil gets hot!).
Heat oil over medium heat and add the dried chillies until they begin to plump up. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and optional sesame/peanuts, watching closely for when they start to splutter and pop.
As soon as this happens, swiftly add asafoetida, coriander/cilantro, garlic, ginger, and green chili. Add a splash of water to prevent charring and sticking, if necessary.
Add in the boiled potatoes along with all your powdered spices, tossing to coat with the tempering oil for a few additional minutes. Season with salt and serve with puri, lemon wedges, and fresh cilantro.

Sukhi Bhaji

Sukhi Bhaji

Sukhi Bhaji

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33 Responses to Sukhi Bhaji (Dry Potato Curry)

  1. Congrats on finishing up your school year! it always feels SO nice to have a little break before having to go back to class. I’m so glad I’m over the “sharing a kitchen” phase. I don’t think I can ever handle that again. I only had one roommie and she used to leave dirty dishes in the sink so long they started to smell. YUCK. haha. But on a happier not, this potato dish looks awesome. My husband loves potatoes so i’m marking it down.

    • wandercrush says:

      Thank you, Amy! Agreed…it’s a bit daunting to realise I don’t have that many “summer breaks” left before graduating! It should be mandatory throughout our lifetimes, really.
      This is really a wonderful way to dress up potatoes, so let me know if it’s a hit with the husband! ;)

  2. Safe summer adventures! We’ll have to try and catch a drink in NYC in the fall.

  3. shuhan says:

    ARGHHH I GOT NO MORE SUMMER BREAKS ARGHHHHH SO SCARY.

    Anyway.

    This looks ace! Love love love the photos! And jersey royals are simply stunning in flavour this tiem of the year x

  4. I love this recipe. Beautiful. Have a wonderful time in Thailand and look forward to your post from NYC.

  5. Sissi says:

    Irina, I love Indian cuisine especially for what they achieve with simple vegetables. As an avowed pisci and carnivore, I tend to forget there is no dead animal or fish in my Indian dish ;-) These potatoes look so lovely I wonder if I should buy some tomorrow and follow your recipe. Of course I cannot dream of Jersey variety. I have heard a lot about it. I am very fussy with potatoes and sometimes go to two or three shops just to find the variety I like (most people don’t seem to care and I find more and more tasteless, sweetish potatoes).
    I hope you will find wonderful flatmates next autumn too. Have lovely holidays. (I envy you Thailand so much!).

    • wandercrush says:

      Thank you! I very much agree, Sissi. Jerseys are incredibly flavourful—I can only hope that you get to sample them one day soon! What’re your favourite varieties, then?

  6. This looks so good and I bet it is delicious. Hope you have a wonderful trip to Thailand and your motherland. Look forward to seeing some great photos.

  7. Carmen says:

    I’m jealous! That seems so exciting! This looks amazing. I will have to give it a try.

  8. What a great year of travel you have lined up! Hope you’ll share lots of your culinary explorations. Indian food is a favorite of mine, especially potato curries. This one looks delicious – will have to try it, for sure!

    • wandercrush says:

      Cheers, Trisha! Yes, I’m so very blessed for all the opportunities…it’s only fair that I share them with you guys—that’s one of the best parts of travel anyhow!

  9. Thailand! How exciting! I LOVE Indian food. Your potatoes look wonderful. Can’t wait to read about your travels!

    • wandercrush says:

      Thank you, Christin! Indian food is so yummy. I had a bunch of it on the plane today, since we were traveling with an Indian airline… can’t say I’m a fan of the airplane version, but it’s still a refreshing change from the usual hard baguettes and tomato pasta!

  10. You will have a blast in Thailand! It’s a beautiful city. And I cant wait to see what creatives recipes you start posting on this blog.

  11. Nicole V-squared says:

    Asofotida! Now I can use my jar for something other than Krishna lunch dressing! I miss you, girly. Don’t forget: we must capitalize on the two week Jax window in Jul/Aug. Looking forward to hearing about your approaching NYC semester. Beijos, Riner.

    • wandercrush says:

      NICKEL, how lovely to see you on the blog <3 Yes, excellent idea! Not to imply that you’d ever need anything more than Krishna dressing in your life… I really can’t wait to see you. In fact, I’m feeling a Krishna-themed dinner party coming on…?

  12. This looks incredible! Have fun in Thailand. That’s definitely a place I’d like to visit at some point!

  13. Helena says:

    It should have been a tough time to leave London – a city I keep falling in love with everytime I visit ! But you obviously have some exciting things ahead ! How lucky you are for Thailand, though for a trip in Asia my preference would go for China over the other countries ;)
    Look forward to reading about these upcoming adventures then.
    I’m not at all familiar with Indian cooking, but these potatoes sound so awesome that I think I should give a chance to it ! Didn’t know that variety, it looks so nice ! I agree with what Sissi said, the potatoes here have often that sweet edge that not everybody likes.

    • wandercrush says:

      Exactly, Helena! I feel silly to complain about missing London because the alternatives aren’t so bad either! ;) China is amazing, and I too wish I’d visit the mainland more often from Taiwan.
      These potatoes are a great place to start if you’re not familiar with Indian cooking—a lot of the tempering just takes time to set up the spices in preparation, but from there many of the flavour bases are similar for dishes across the cuisine.

  14. Monica says:

    Hi Irina – what a lovely blog you have here! I can absolutely tell you are an art student. Love the international recipes and the photography is so beautifully clean yet vivid.

    I love these potatoes and all the wonderful spices you used. I’ve been roasting yukon golds I pick up on Sundays from the farmer’s market. You are inspiring me to be a bit more adventurous on the spice front. Thanks!

  15. Erika says:

    Oh yummm. I love curry (and potatoes) in all forms–this dry curry stuff is intriguing and totally delicious looking! I’m loving your photos and blog so far! I forgot where I first stumbled across you, but I’m so glad I did!! Love your layout, your recipes, your mission!

    • wandercrush says:

      Ah thanks so much, Erika! What a nice thing to say. It’s always encouraging to know, especially when the blogosphere is still a bit new and scary. I hope you give the curry a try :)

  16. laurasmess says:

    Irina, I love your macro shots. So gorgeous! I made a very similar curry to this a couple of weeks ago and it was delicious. I didn’t have asofotida though. I was wondering if it made much of a difference? So jealous of your travels. Being full-time in the work force seemed great for a while, but I miss being a student! xx

    • wandercrush says:

      Cheers, Laura :) I’ll surely be appreciating and trying to prolong student life while I can!
      I’m definitely not an expert on Indian cuisine but as far as I understand it, asafoetida is used in small quantities to harmonise all the other flavours going on—like a smooth background note. I don’t think many unfamiliar palates could taste a difference, but surely it’s a distinct element of South Indian cuisine.

  17. Pingback: Bavarian Potato Salad (Kartoffelsalat) // .wandercrush.

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