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What Is Dum Aloo?

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  • Written By: Eugene P.
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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‎Dum aloo‭,‭ ‬also called‭ dam aloo‭,‭ ‬is a traditional Indian dish that originated in‭ ‬the northern part of the country.‭ ‬It is specifically Kashmiri cuisine consisting of potatoes,‭ ‬onions and tomatoes‭ ‬that are cooked in a curry or masala sauce.‭ ‬There are many variations of‭ dum aloo‭‬,‭ ‬but most of them involve cooking the dish over low heat in a special clay pot.‭ ‬This is considered one of the more fragrant Indian potato dishes because the cooking pot is frequently sealed and not opened until it is time to be served.

The name‭ ‬dum aloo‭ refers to both the main ingredient‭ ‬and the cooking method.‭ ‬Aloo‭ means "potato,"‭ ‬and‭ ‬‬dum‭ ‬literally means "warm breath" or "steam,"‭ ‬and in a culinary context it refers to a particular style of cooking.‭ ‬The‭ ‬dum‭‬ style of cooking involves using a heavy-bottomed ‬clay pot called a‭ ‬handi‭‬.‭ ‬This pot is placed over slow-burning coals with a lid on top.‭ ‬The edge of the lid is‭ ‬secured with a water-and-flour paste that seals it like a pressure cooker.

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The first step‭ ‬in making‭ dum aloo‭ ‬is preparing the potatoes.‭ ‬This can be done either by boiling them until tender or soaking them in lightly salted water.‭ ‬Some recipes call for the potatoes to be used‭ ‬whole ‬or to be cut into smaller wedges.‭ ‬Other recipes‭ ‬require the potatoes to be cut in half,‭ ‬hollowed out and then later refilled.‭ ‬The potatoes also can be fried in a pan until brown for added flavor and texture.

The liquid portion of the dish begins by preparing‭ ‬a dry spice mix,‭ ‬sometimes called a curry or masala.‭ ‬Much of Indian cooking acquires its distinctive taste by roasting spices in a specific order in a‭ ‬heavy-bottomed pan.‭ ‬For‭ ‬dum aloo‭,‭ ‬the common spices are‭ ‬cardamom,‭ ‬cumin and‭ ‬coriander seeds.‭ ‬Depending on the recipe,‭ ‬spices such as fennel seeds,‭ ‬dried chilies or‭ ‬star‭ ‬anise might be added.‭ ‬Garlic and ginger‭ ‬might be‭ ‬used as well,‭ ‬although for religious reasons, a‭ ‬powder called‭ ‬asafetida‭‬ is sometimes substituted.

The‭ ‬cooked‭ ‬spices and potatoes are added to the‭ ‬handi‭ along with tomatoes,‭ ‬onions and possibly some almonds or cashews.‭ ‬The lid is sealed with‭ ‬the flour paste, and the dish‭ ‬is‭ ‬allowed to cook for 20 minutes or more.‭ ‬If a‭ ‬handi‭‬ is not available,‭ ‬any clay cooking pot will do.‭ ‬A slow cooker can also be used.‭ ‬The important attributes for a‭ ‬dum aloo‭ cooking pot are a heavy bottom and‭ ‬a‭ ‬lid that can be sealed.

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