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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Potato, An Important Constituent Of Indian Street Food

Indian street food/chaat is incomplete without a Potato, the starchy vegetable. Not only street foods, but a potato is also the king of Indian kitchens.

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Pradeep Chamaria
Pradeep Chamaria
I am a photojournalist. Love to travel to unknown and unexplored vistas. Since 1992, I make places desirable for other travelers through experiential Travel Writing.

INDIA: Millions of tongues start salivating whenever someone mentions, “Let’s go out and eat something spicy.” Yes, that is the power of street food in India. No one can ever refuse an offer of a dona of chaat. A chaat, in fact, is a generic term for Indian street food in general. And it’s a proven fact that no single chaat in India is complete without a Potato, the starchy vegetable.

Not only street foods, but potatoes are also the kings of Indian kitchens. While its dominance in Indian cooking is undisputable, the majority of Indians are unaware of the fact that our dear potatoes or aloos were introduced by the Portuguese as the erstwhile, Batata to India. Still known as batata in western India, it is used, consumed, and loved in all its glory all over the world. Is known by various other names: Irish Potato, Ja Ying Ye, Papa, Patatas, Patate, Patate Irlandaise, Pomme de Terre, Pomme de Terre Blanche, Pomme de Terre Irlandaise… 

Aloo Tikki, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
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From Kolkata to Delhi, Kashmir to Kanyakumari, the potato is served in many different ways on Indian plates today. It’s hard even to visualise how cuisines across India would look like without the potato. It is the most important constituent of most iconic dishes found on Indian plates, such as Mumbai’s Batata Vada,  Vada Pav, Ragda Patties, or Kolkata’s Aloo Posto, or South India’s Masala Dosa, or Delhi’s Aloo Tikki, Tikki Burger, samosas, or the pan Indian delicacies like aloo parathas, or curries and so on …

Read Also: Samosa: King Of Snacks In India

Aloo Tikki, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
Shakarkandi Chaat, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria
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A sweet like aloo halwa has also been very popular in Rajasthan. Also, a variety of sweet potatoes called Shakarkandi in India is used to make one of the most popular winter season chaat, the Shakarkandi chaat. This delicious chaat is one of the yummiest and popular street foods of India and also one of the healthiest street foods during the winters.

Diced Potatoes fro Golgappas, Photo Credits: Pradeep Chamaria

Kids just love French fries and potato wedges and it has been claimed in the USA by the USDA, that over half of all potatoes sold in the U.S. are used for making French fries. In India too, fried potatoes are one of the most popular side dishes with the staple dal and rice.

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What is a potato?

Potato in fact is a vegetable; the swollen portion of the underground stem known as a tuber of the plant is called potato. They have a starchy flavor which makes them different, versatile, and one of the most comfortable food items. It can be used in various forms such as mashed, boiled, chopped, cubed, grated, sliced, peeled, chunks, pieces, baked, and roasted.

The potato is indigenous to South America, and is eaten, and used as a source of starch, and also fermented into alcohol to make cheap country liquor. The potato was first grown in Peru and Bolivia some 10,000 years ago. It arrived in Europe during the 16th century. In India, the potato was introduced by the Portuguese first, and later British East India Company widely promoted potato farming in the 17th century by pressurising Indian farmers.

For Britain, the potato was a great factor in economic development during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century as it served as a cheap source of calories and nutrients. In India too, it soon became the food of the poor replacing the yams, gourds, and turnip. It is a strange coincidence as Indian is the only cuisine where two starches, potatoes, and rice are served in one single meal.

Soon, in the next couple of centuries, the potato became the hero of all Indian cuisines, and transformed breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and posed a serious challenge to meat dishes.

Potatoes, Photo Credits: Pixabay

Potato as a health supplement and in beauty treatments

Potatoes are popular because of their versatility and are used in many different dishes of food. They also are widely used in maintaining health and beauty issues. Potatoes contain antioxidant properties and are a source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, iron, riboflavin, potassium, carbohydrates, and phytochemicals.

And as such, they are used in medical sciences as a cure for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, indigestion, boils, burns, infections, obesity, osteoarthritis, inflammation, and constipation, and other conditions.

Potatoes are great when added to your beauty routine and are used as an effective solution for brightening and evening out your skin. It is also effective for reducing the under-eye dark circles and as a cure for spots and blemishes of the skin.

Still not accepted in few Indian religious establishments

Well, yes, the potato is a favourite in India, but, it has not been accepted in certain sections of Indian society, particularly a few religious establishments. Temple of Lord Jagannath in Puri, Odisha, a sacred Hindu worship space has not accepted potato fit enough to be served to the lord.  Food is offered six times a day to up to Lord Jagannath, but sans the potato. It not present in any of the offerings as they don’t offer anything of a foreign origin to god.  Another explanation given is that this temple has been preparing the same food consisting of rice, dal, and vegetables for the past 500 years, and since the potato has not been around that long, it is not served.

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