There are some comfort foods we adopt over the course of our adult lives. For me, that includes bibimbap, ramen, and big plate chicken. I love to cook these foods at home because I learn by doing.
Then there are the comfort foods of our childhoods. These foods are deeply embedded in our personal histories: my nanu’s shrimp dopiaza, my mom’s rainy day kitchuri. I hesitate to make them at home because I know it’ll never be the same. It’s literally a recipe for disappointment.
In the normal course of my fail-fast-fall-forward lifestyle, this doesn’t bother me. Though I think about food constantly, I never think about cooking Bengali dishes. That cuisine is safely tucked away in the past.
Still, every so often, I miss those recipes. It happens most often when Jay and I are planning for the future: saving for a small wedding, talking about adoption, running the numbers for our retirement accounts. I see my life stretching out to a distant horizon and I feel that something is missing.
It’s high time I started reclaiming that culinary heritage. If I can lay (some small) claim to foods from all over the world, why can’t I own those food-memories that are already a part of me?
This recipe for aloo singara is a baby step in that direction, a peace offering to the past.
- 1 tbs panch phoron (equal parts fenugreek, fennel, nigella, cumin, and mustard seeds)
- 1 tbs grated ginger
- 2 tbs grated onion
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1.5 cups new potatoes, diced (about 3/4 lb)
- 1 cup cauliflower, separated into small florets
- 1/2 cup peas (frozen or fresh)
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 4 tbs oil
- 2 tbs melted ghee
- 2 tsp nigella seeds
- water to form dough (~1 cup)
For serving –
- Tamarind sauce (from dried or paste)
- Hot and sweet chili tomato sauce
- Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add the whole seeds and toast for a couple of minutes over medium-low heat until they start to pop in the pan.
- Add the grated ginger, onion, and spices. Combine and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant.
- Add potatoes and cauliflower. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until soft (about 15 minutes), adding water as needed to steam the veggies without becoming wet. The resulting mixture should be dry but not crispy or fried.
- While the veggies cook, make the dough. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the fats and mix well, then slowly add water 1 tbsp at a time until the dough holds together. It should be a dry dough.
- Wrap flour in plastic and let rest for 10-20 minutes.
- When the veggies are done, transfer to a small bowl.
- Divide dough into 16 equal sections.
- One by one, roll the dough into small balls, then flatten and roll into an oval. Take one end of the oval and roll it onto itself to form a cone. Seal with a little water. Stuff with filling, then fold the top flap of the oval down over the filling and seal. Sit the singara on a plate.
- Heat a pot of oil to 365F and fry the singara in batches. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to cool and drain.
- Serve hot with dipping sauce.
Recipes adapted from: