Patiala Aloo Dum
(also Alu Dum, Alu Dam, and variously)
From the state of Patiala, Aloo Dum, literally "palace
potatoes", or as I've seen it more poetically, "Potatoes
to Perfume the Palace" raises the lowly potato to an
almost unimaginable state of grace and elegance, and will
indeed perfume any palace, however humble it might be.
Yes, this is a bit tedious to prepare, but the effort
of exactness will be rewarded. TSC promises. The "aloo"
part means potato in many Indian languages, while "dum",
etymologically related to the German "Dom" (cathedral)
and to the Latin "Domus" (House/home), English "Domicile",
if the obviousness need be continued, means palace in
those languages, including Sanskrit.
Level 10/10 in difficulty, not for culinary dilettants;
more like for seriously anal chefs.
2 lbs firm potatoes
2/3 cup usli ghee
2 tsp ground cumino
4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp white poppy seeds
2 TBS sesame seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns
6 @ cloves
1 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 tsp whole caraway seed
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
4 TBS grated fresh coconut (to a paste, if you can)
2 @ bay leaf, medium, well crumbled, and best ground
(about 1/8 tsp of pulverized bay leaf)
2 TBS gram (besam or chick pea) flour or *finely* ground corn meal
if not gram flour. The usual corn meal is not fine enough;
make it finer with a blender or very good spice grinder.
2/3 cup slivered almonds, rinsed of any almond dust and drained
well in a strainer lined with one sheet of paper toweling.
1 tsp salt
16 clv garlic, large, coarsely chopped
4 TBS (=1/4 cup) finely chopped ginger root
1 @ onion, large, coarsely chopped
For mild piquance (tikkut)
[1/4 tsp cayenne = 1/8 tsp habanero = 1/2 tsp Indian pepper powder
= 1-2 tsp hot Hungarian paprika] optional
12 @ saffron blades, toasted and ground in a mortar
soaked in cream 30-60 minutes
First choice is Kashmiri saffron, next is Iranian saffron.
Don't waste time with Spanish saffron for this dish.
2 TBS heavy cream
3 TBS finely chopped dried apricot
2-3 TBS crumbled brown crisped onions
1+ cup water
2 cups yoghurt, fresh and thick, beaten smooth with a fork
(Don't forget the beating smooth: it makes a significant
difference in texture)
1. Peel pototoes, cut in thick (about 1/4 - 1/2 inch) rounds.
Prick the surfaces well and leave soak in cold, well
2. Collect the spices of Group I, the 2 indicated subgroups in
Heat a small cast iron skillet to medium temperature and
dry fry (stirring) each of the subgroups separately until
they brown and become fragrant, collecting these all in a
small reserve bowl. Careful not to burn. Keep your nose
aware; at the slightest sniff of burn, knock all the spices
back into their bowl quickly, even though the mixture doesn't
look finished. Remember to use a lower heat next time,
and take your time.
First time through, it might be worth the effort to dry
fry each of the spices separately, so you then know how
each behaves in this roasting technique. Yes, this is a
giant pain in the ass. But, if you do this, take notes
that you can actually read 10 years later, you have some
valuable culinary information that can only be obtained by
3. Begin heating the ghee in a pot or stove top cassarole,
like Corning ware, to fry temperature. Remove potato
rounds from water, drying them with a towel and placing
them on toweling. Fry the potatoes in the ghee, in batches,
until golden brown, removing and reserving.
SET OVEN TO 200 F.
4. Have the ghee in a casserole on a medium heat, bring
to temperature and add the almonds. Brown the almonds
and draining well, remove them to the bowl of collected
roasted spices. Turn heat off, remove from heat and
leave ghee for further use.
5. Put the reserved spices in a small blender jar, or spice
grinder and blend all to a paste with 1.5 cup of cold water,
remove and reserve as the SPICES in same small bowl.
6. Put Group III ingredients in a small blender jar, and blend
to a paste, adding either a bit of water or yoghurt if
necessary. Reserve the ONION paste in a bowl.
7. Put Group IV ingredients in a small blender jar, and blend
until smooth. Mix these APRICOTS well into the 2 cups of
8. Return ghee to a fry temperature.
Add ONION paste to hot ghee and fry until it begins to brown,
stirring constantly. Then add the SPICES, cooking for 1 minute.
Return the potatoes to the casserole and mix throughly.
Remove from heat and stir in the YOGHURT mixture, and then
2 cups of hot water. Cover tightly and place in oven for
at least 30 minutes, preferably a bit longer. Should the
sauce lose its binding (this sometimes happens despite all
due dilligence and neurotic panic), lift out the potatoes
and whisk in 1-4 TBS of Yoghurt, and a pinch of salt
to rebind before serving.
We would prefer not to dilute the flavorings even this
much, but it is better than throwing everything out and
1. On spices:
You always want the spices to be fresh, and if ground,
freshly ground. It does matter; without the freshness
the result will be like your taste when you have a cold.
2. You can stop in 8 and not put the casserole in the oven until
the next day. For potatoes, this is lot of work for one day;
however, it's pretty much guaranteed to delight your audience.
If you are "germ conscious", you might want to refrigerate
the casserole overnight. Personally, I wouldn't bother.
Gauche as it may seem to say, this is really a "potato stew".
Anybody who has made stews (who hasn't?) knows they are always
better the next day. Verbum sapiente suficit.
3. This is one of those supremely designed dishes where cheating
on the old family recipes, or omitting or substituting of
ingredients, or messing with the ingredients or their proportions
is inviting disaster. Sure, it will be still be edible, but
then so are live and wriggling grubs and larvae. Performing
Mozart does not allow leaving half the notes out, or changing
them. Why? Because it is a delicate piece of crafted
architecture, and so is this, so much so that I'm reluctant
even to share its secrets lest they fall into the hands
of culinary baboons. This is one of the few instances of
life where simply being obedient, and precisely so, will
actually pay off. You can study and figure out why and
and how it works some other time. Learning from the mistakes
of others is more efficient than learning from your own,
but often not quite so convincing.
4. This is certainly not the only recipe for this named
delectation, just the best that TSC has done with this
particular approach. It is made a bit differently in
Kashmir, in Madras, in .... But, it is always highly
aromatic and complex.
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Created: June 23, 2007
Last Updated: October 3, 2007
Last Updated: January 31, 2010