A spicy dish called aloo angara changed the way I think about potatoes.
Aloo angara version of the humble potato almost brought me to tears
To be honest, potatoes haven't really figured much in my culinary discussions over the years.
I'm well aware that many people love them in salads or baked and covered in cheese, but generally, rather than waste precious tummy space on a stodgy mass of starch, I tend to pass on this simple tuber dish.
But, just as the unassuming-looking Susan Boyle's TV debut on Britain's Got Talent famously made the venomous critic Simon Cowell's jaw drop in sheer shock at her sublime singing talent, occasionally the same can occur with the most dreary of foodstuffs.
This happened to me at Kulcha King two weeks ago. I wouldn't have ordered the special aloo angara (fiery potatoes) unless the restaurant's eager young owner had not begged me to venture beyond my usual order of stuffed kulcha breads with chickpea masala curry. But I'm so glad he insisted, because his recommendation blew all my potato preconceptions right out of the water.
Aloo angara consists of a common garden potato that's been peeled, cored through the centre and deep fried. The outer surface of the potato is then smeared with a tangy paste of yogurt and tandoori spices while the hollow core is stuffed with an unusual combination of peas, chillies, chopped poppadums, cheese and chaat masala.
The stuffed spud is then baked, so the yogurt paste on the outside becomes a crisp, powdery crust that just sings with a flavour. The final flourish involves slicing up the potato into bite-sized discs, and sprinkling more of that finger-licking chaat masala, making for a dish so morish you'll be begging for an encore.
If my eyes had rolled disdainfully at the thought of having to toil through another mundane potato appetiser, they were now shut tight, focusing intently on a dish performing in all its multilayered, crisp, mushy, peppery and sour complexity.
Afterwards, I would be harping on about this lunchtime act well after its debut – those bites of stuffed aloo angara dipped in salty coriander chutney, the crunchy mouthfuls of fresh cabbage and pickled onions and the thick swigs of sweet, creamy lassi. This was one spicy tongue-singing performance that almost moved me to tears.
I returned to Kulcha King last week, just so I could experience a replay of the aloo angara and reaffirm that it warranted all the fuss. And indeed, in that second moment of truth, I realised it did.
Yes, the humble potato had the power to silence the Simon Cowell in me.
- Aloo angara is served at Kulcha King, near Al Fahidi Metro stop, Bur Dubai and costs Dh15. Call 04 327 8622 or visit www.kulchaking.com
Arva Ahmed is the blogger behind www.iliveinafryingpan.com