Saturday, April 20, 2024

Jira Alu

I had a lot of red potatoes; and I really needed a recipe. When I had this realization, I was sitting in front of my laptop. I did a search for global potato recipes. I found a recipe for Jeera Aloo.

The name, Jeera Aloo, provides some insight into the two principal ingredients of this recipe. Jeera is the Hindi word for cumin. Aloo is the Hindi word for potatoes. That's it: cumin potatoes.

The recipe says that it comes from Bangladesh, so it should actually take its Bengali or Bangla title, Jira Alu. (I can't find the appropriate symbols or the Eastern Nagari script on Blogger, so I can't do justice for the name). Yet, this recipe incorporates spices that easily telegraph its origin. Not only the use of cumin, but also mustard, turmeric and ground chiles. Taken together, this dish reminds me of the aromas and flavors of the subcontinent.  Those aromas and flavors are some of the reasons why the cuisines of Southern Asia - from Bangladesh to Pakistan, from India to Sri Lanka - are some of my favorite cuisines to cook and eat. 

Apart from the aromas and flavors, the other key feature of this recipe is that it is really easy to make. There are only a handful of ingredients needed to make the dish. There are a couple of different ways to make it. One way would be to boil the potatoes first and then cook them in a pan. Another way is to just simply cook them in a pan. In the end, I decided that boiling the potatoes first would be best, because that would help to cook them through, especially since I decided to have larger pieces. It would also help when they are roasted in the pan because the outsides could crisp up while the interiors remain softer. 

So, in the end, this recipe does what many cooks do ... improvise with the ingredients (that is, use what is on hand) and the cooking methods. The end result is a very delicious side dish that could be part of of any meal. 


Recipe adapted from The Foreign Fork

Serves 4


  • 5 small potatoes, large dice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds (substitute brown mustard seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger


1.    Boil the potatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the potatoes. Boil for about 10 minutes until a fork can be inserted into the potatoes but they are not too tender. Drain and leave to dry.

2.    Fry the spices. Heat the oil in the frying pan until it almost reaches its smoking point. Add the cumin. When the cumin seeds begin to pop, remove the pan from the fire and add the mustard seeds until they begin to pop as well. 

3.    Add the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the pan and the remaining seasonings. Cook over low heat until the potatoes are done. 


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