Fried potatoes. The one dish you can count on to be a crowd-pleaser. That you can conjure up from virtually nothing. Pan-fried potatoes, Marathi style, is a dish made with pantry staples- onions, potatoes, and a few everyday spices- cooked to golden brown perfection. The Marathi term for pan-frying is paratne, and potato translates as batata, hence the Marathi name for this dish is paratlele batate.
The flavoring in this dish, apart from the usual trio of salt-turmeric-red chili powder, comes from just two spices: coriander seeds and cumin seeds. This duo is used so often in Maharashtrian cuisine that I keep a coriander-cumin spice mix in the spice box, which makes it really easy to throw together quick stir-fries such as this one. To make the coriander-cumin powder at home, take equal amounts of cumin seeds and coriander seeds (I make small batches, using 1/4 cup of each spice). Combine them in a small skillet, then toast on low heat until aromatic and just a shade darker (be careful not to burn the spices). Cool the toasted spices, then dry-grind to a fine powder. Store in an air-tight bottle and use as required. For this dish, I look for organic potatoes with thin skins; that way I can simply scrub the potatoes clean and leave the skin on for extra flavor.
Pan-fried potatoes go well with just about everything- I love scooping it up with chunks of hot roti, and I love eating it with dal-rice and yogurt-rice. I have one memory of eating this dish as a small kid. It was when a bunch of neighborhood kids got together one summer evening and "camped out" in one family's backyard, lighting a fire to cook on. These pan-fried potatoes were made (by the older children) using ingredients donated by various moms, and we ate them with sliced bread. The combination tasted so good!
When I cook paratlele batate, I make sure that I'm the one serving it, because then I can put all the extra-crispy almost-burnt bits (the best part!) in my own plate...after all, it is the cook's privilege!
Pan-Fried Potatoes (Paratlele Batate)
(makes about 3 side-dish servings)
2 large potatoes or 3 medium potatoes or 6 small potatoes
1 medium onion
1 T oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 t red chili powder
1 t coriander-cumin powder
salt to taste
fresh lemon juice
1. Prepare the vegetables: Cut the onion into slices. Scrub the potatoes clean, then cut crosswise into thin slices (if large or medium potatoes are used, you want to first cut the potato into quarters or halves lengthwise).
2. Heat the oil in a skillet. Make the tempering with mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida.
3. Stir in the onion and cook on medium heat until the onion starts browning around the edges.
4. Stir in the turmeric, red chili powder, coriander-cumin powder and salt and let it saute for a few seconds.
5. Stir in the sliced potato, then leave uncovered on medium heat. Turn the potatoes every 4-5 minutes and cook until the they are crispy and browned.
6. Garnish liberally with lemon juice and cilantro and serve right away.
Other popular Maharashtrian ways with Potato, all three using boiled potato:
A festive meal: Puri Bhaji
A tea-time snack: Batata Vada
As stuffing: Bharli Mirchi