Sunday, January 28, 2007

A is for Aloo Gobi

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.

A is for Aloo Gobi: The simplest stir-fry (North-Indian style)
We kick-off the series with a crowd-pleaser. Aloo Gobi simply means potato-cauliflower, a combination of two beloved vegetables cooked together with some simple spices. The humble aloo gobi can be found on the menu of practically every Indian restaurant on the planet, although one might say that it is more of a North Indian style recipe, originally from the Northern state of Punjab. So aloo gobi is an example of a simple stir-fried vegetable dish, North-Indian style, and is homely enough for everyday meals, and loved enough to be served at a nice dinner.

There are dozens of recipes for making aloo gobi; in some cases, potato cubes and cauliflower florets are deep-fried (!) before being tossed with spices, in some recipes, you would add some tomato to the stir-fry resulting in a light curry. My version of aloo gobi is the simplest possible. It calls for very basic ingredients and not much oil. You do not need an extensive Indian pantry to make this dish: it only calls for 6 spices (from top to bottom in the picture): cumin seeds (1), red chili powder or cayenne pepper (2), turmeric (3), cumin powder, coriander powder (4 is a blend of cumin and coriander powder that I make at home but you can just use the separately ground spices as they are sold), garam masala (5).
The best part is that all these spices, except maybe garam masala, are available in just about any grocery store/ supermarket. And even garam masala is now available in many of the better food stores such as Whole Foods and spice markets such as Penzey's as well as Indian stores and International stores everywhere. You can make your own blend at home using a spice grinder too. The liberal use of garam masala is the hallmark of Punjabi cuisine.

You start making this dish with a little prep: Chop a small onion into thin slices, cut a cauliflower into bite-size florets and wash, peel and dice two potatoes into medium cubes. Then set out your spice bottles and we are ready to make some aloo gobi!

Aloo Gobi

(serves 4-5)
1 medium-large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, sliced
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder (cayenne pepper)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1. A wide saucepan is ideal for making aloo gobi as it has a large surface area for the vegetables to come in contact with heat. Heat oil in the pan on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until they sizzle. This is called "tempering" the oil as the oil acquires a wonderful cumin flavor during this step.
2. Add the onion and stir-fry for a few minutes until onion is starting to brown at the edges.
3. Lower the heat and add in the spices from turmeric to coriander powder. Stir only a few seconds to get the spices coated with oil.
4. Add the potato and cauliflower and stir well to mix in the spices. Add the salt and garam masala.
5. Let the vegetables cook until tender. My usual method is to cover the pan and let the veggies cook in their own juices which are released due to the salt. The vegetables at the bottom of the pan get browned, and you keep stirring every 2-3 minutes to evenly cook the vegetables. If you feel like there is not enough steam building up and the vegetables are sticking at the bottom, add 1/4 cup of water. Insert a knife point or skewer into a potato cube to test for tenderness. Turn off the heat once vegetables are tender (do not over-cook).
6. Let the "subzi" (vegetable) rest for 10 minutes, then serve warm.

Variations on a theme: This is the simplest stir-fry and these are some easy ways to jazz it up...
1. Garnishes can take the dish to a whole new level. Minced cilantro is the easiest garnish for color and flavor. The other one is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice; this really brightens the dish. Both garnishes are added right after you turn off the heat after the dish is cooked.
2. Ginger makes a wonderful pairing with the vegetables and the spices. Take a knob of fresh ginger and peel it (I use the edge of a spoon to do this), then mince the ginger. Add one tsp of minced ginger at step 3 of the recipe.
3. Make this a mixed-vegetable dish by using only 1/2 cauliflower and 1 potato and instead adding 3/4 cup diced carrots, 1/2 cup green peas (frozen works great) and 3/4 cup of trimmed and chopped green beans.

How do you serve this dish? The traditional way is to (a) scoop it up with flatbreads like roti or naan and (b) eat it with some dal and steamed rice. But you can let your imagination run wild and eat it (c) stuffed into a pita, (d) on a salad bed (cucumber, tomato, radishes, chopped and tossed with some yogurt), (e) in a sandwich with a slice of cheese.

The humble aloo (potato) is beloved in Indian cuisine...and is combined with a variety of vegetables to make easy everyday stir-fry dishes. Here are some dishes made by fellow bloggers. You will see how each cook has his/her favorite combination of spices that go into a stir-fry :
aloo bhindi (potato-okra) from Creative Pooja,
aloo baingan (potato-eggplant) from My Dhaba,
aloo shimla mirch (potato-green pepper) from Arad-Daagh,
You can, of course, combine more than two vegetable for the stir-fry...such as:
aloo matar saag (potato-peas-spinach) from Food In The Main,
and you can leave potatoes out altogether and make a different combination, like this:
gobi-mutter (cauliflower-peas) from Saffron Trail,


  1. A is for Awesome! What a great new series, Nupur. Here it is breakfast time and I'm wishing I had cauliflower in the frig. I especially like all the tips, how to serve, how to vary. Can't wait for B - Z.

  2. The Aloo Gobi looks delicious! Thanks for the recipe too. I'm going to put it on my to-make list. I use Penzey's Garam Masala quite a bit.

  3. hi.the humble Aloo gobi never looked so AMAZING,APPETISING AND ALLURING.grade A+ to you for yet another ATTRACTIVE series.all the best.luv,yoma.

  4. Hi Nupur - I know I'm going to love your new series and what a fantastic start! This sounds delicious and it's something I'll definitely be trying soon. Thanks too for the serving tips and links to the other recipes!

  5. Amazing! Astonishingly creative and informative. Nupur, thank you -- I am excited to follow your alphabet.

  6. What a fantastic post. I especially love that it's easy enough for those of us who suffer from a bit of Indian Cooking Anxiety.

  7. Hey Nupur,

    Great to see one more series.All the best!

  8. wow, that looks gooooood! the series sound slike a great idea. looking forward to it. cheers, jacob

  9. I was waiting for your series since Y'day...Its really exciting...awaiting for B-Z

  10. P is for perfect ;)

  11. yohoo!....navin series mhanje officially you ahve returned to the blogospher...way to go Nupur....
    B= Bhindi Masala ka? ke bahrva Bhindi...cant wait to see

  12. Hi!What a simple and nice recipe!!! I have started liking Gobhi only after I tried the Punjabi version, otherwise the smell of gobhi was a bit too overpowering for me. I always add ginger (after a friend told me if i skip it, i can expect my stomach to do a drum roll!) or ajwain, to avoid flatulence.
    This is a lovely series! Look forward to b,c,d,...z!

  13. Another A-Z series from you.. Fantastic..Can't wait to see what is going to come up next with B. Good luck Nupur.

  14. simpe... easy ... looks delicious !

  15. Hi Nupur!!
    WOW, so you are back with a bang..same place, different city:)
    Congrats on the doctorate. Someday, I would like to walk down with tht coveted degree too:-)
    This was very simple..Although, I was always under an impression that traditional Aloo gobi, always had tomatoes in them.
    Your recipe looks fab:)

  16. Wow, magnificent. Are you going to go through the whole alphabet? I'm loving it. Potatoes are my favorites and so I always order something like this when I'm out at an Indian restaurant. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  17. Looks yummy! :) Great post! Can't wait for the rest of the series...I hope I'll be a passable cook for Indian dishes after this because I love the cuisine :)

  18. Hi Nupur, what a lovely write-up on a classic recipe! Even I knew of aloo gobi, but seeing you describe it -- all the subtleties of Indian cuisine come shining through. Have you ever thought of giving up that doctorate and making a living teaching Indian cooking classes? ;)

    Thanks so much for sharing -- can't wait for "B".

  19. Nupur, i commend your emphasis on regional cuisines. None of the regional cuisines have ever been beought out authentically in the food that goes interntaionally as Indian Food.....yes, including Punjabi food. i am Punjabi and home style Punjabi khana is very different. I enjoy Maharashtrian food a lot (courtesy one of my best friend's Mom-my favorite is thali-peeth) and thats what brought me to your blog.

    As for aloo-gobhi, its an all time favorite-try using ginger in the tadka-ginger goes the best with phool-gobhi. you can also add matar to enhance the flavor. Also, Mom used to make stuffed paranthas with aloo-gobhi ki sabzi-and it truly makes the best filling.

  20. Thanks, everyone! I really appreciate your encouraging comments about this new series...I hope it unfolds nicely as days go by :) And yes, I hope it makes Indian home cooking a little un-intimidating for some folks!

    Supriya, thanks for the ideas for B! A hint: B will be bharva (stuffed) something...

    Rays of sun, there seem to be all kinds of recipes for this dish, some that include tomato and some that do not. Maybe I should have added tomato as another variation.

    Linda, don't know about that :) but you of all people don't need Indian cooking classes. In fact, you cook it so well that I should be learning a thing or two from you!

    Manasi and "musical", I love ginger in aloo gobi too! Just that I had none at hand that day, and actually it tastes great even without the ginger so that worked out.
    Musical, I got to taste Punjabi-style khaana on a visit to Haryana several years ago and it was soooo good. Totally classic cuisine.

  21. Nupur-
    This is my first visit to your blogsite- the header of the Marathi thali is very attractive! The one thing that caught my eye, as I was reading this post on Aloo Ghobi, was your suggestion to try it in a western-style sandwich with cheese. A few months ago, I tried a recipe for this dish where the vegetables were grated finely before stir-frying, and, much to the horror of a house-guest, I composed sandwiches with it for lunch the next day...of course they were excellent!!!

  22. Hi Nupur,
    You have got a very nice blog here. Keep up the good work.
    Having read your ALoo gobhi recipe, here are couple of variation you can make to it. First instead of plain garam masala use mix of one part each of Kalunji seeds, Methi seeds, and mustard seeds. Toast then a little and grind to powder. Sprinkel right before taking the dish off the stove. Second variation is of using Kasuri methi right at the end. Its a perfect match to goobhi.I hope you will like them.

  23. Just wanted to thank you so much for this fabulous recipe! I took the advice to add ginger, carrots and peas and I also added about 1/2 t. of madras curry powder to all the lovely spices - we ate it so happily with rice and my first attempt at homemade naan (yum!) and we're already planning to make the exact same meal again soon. Can't wait to see what other recipes you'll post - thanks again!

  24. Nice recipe... and lovely cross stitch on the table mat below... did you make that?

    Check this out :-)

  25. I tried the recipe today. Thanks for posting. It is cooking in medium heat at the moment :-)

  26. Thank you so much for the wonderful aloo gobi recipe. I discovered your blog only today, and I'm looking forward to more delicious reading. I've linked to your site on mine.
    Many thanks

  27. I am leaving for vacation on Friday, and was looking for a recipe that wouldn't require me to buy too many new ingredients. So that's what first brought me to your blog. I like the format of having a simple recipe with possible additions at the end.

    You also satisfied my cravings for recipes that use unusual vegetables, and I really liked the health tips!

  28. Thanx Nupur for this easy and tasty punjabi recipe.

  29. Thanks for another yummy recipe Nupur! This is one of the best aloo gobhi Sabzis that I have made. Second time round, I added the ginger and lemon juice, and that was very tasty too! Thanks for sharing 😀

  30. I just wanted to say thanks for this recipe, which came out nicely. I made it with ginger and peas, as per the suggestions. I also used only one tablespoon of oil and added water early on, as I wasn't getting enough steam ( or maybe I was too lazy to wait for it!) . Thank you.


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