Writing a review of “New Kitchen Basics” by Claire Thomson last month, I marked Batata Vada Pav as an intriguing recipe to test. I went so far as to buy the buns, potatoes and chilies that I’d need to make it. But the clock ticked, the deadline approached and time ran out. The recipe would have to wait for another day.

Then last week, with Hanukkah approaching (the Jewish Festival of Lights begins Sunday), it struck me that batata vada pav, an Indian potato fritter, was a close cousin to potato latkes, a traditional Hanukkah food I grew up eating. Moreover, it met the essential culinary requirement of the holiday – that food be fried.

The frying oil represents the miracle of Hanukkah: Around 165 B.C., a band of Jews known as the Maccabees won a battle against the Syrians, who had outlawed their religion. The Syrians had also desecrated the Jews’ holiest spot, the Temple. Inspecting the Temple, the victorious Maccabees found just one day’s supply of consecrated oil to light the menorah. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days (which is why Hanukkah also lasts for eight days; this year, it ends on Dec. 30).

Something else was pushing me toward batata vada pav. When I was a reporter at the Houston Chronicle some years ago, I was astounded to learn that not only did India have a population of Jews at all, but also that it dated back an astonishing 2,000 years. In all that time, Indian Jews had, naturally, developed a cuisine of their own. Add to that, India has its own Festival of Lights, Diwali (celebrated in November).

Excited to take my latke in an Indian direction, I got out my skillet.

If you are looking for fast and easy, stop reading now. To make batata vada pav, first, you need to make three separate mixtures: the chili mixture, the batter, and the potato mixture. You need to form the fritters; dip each one in batter, a somewhat tricky, messy operation; and deep fry them, a technique I always find a botheration.

At the far end, there are a lot of dishes to wash. I used a food processor to make the chili mixture, a bowl for the batter, a pot to boil the potatoes, a saute pan to fry the potato mixture, a skillet to deep fry the vada pav, and a plate to drain the grease.

That said, these were truly, deeply wonderful – real wake-up-your-mouth food, exotic and familiar at once, and positively worth the trouble.

Batata Vada Pav

According to Claire Thomson in “New Kitchen Basics,” batata vada pav are a “Mumbai street food classic.” The recipe calls for gram flour, which is widely used in Indian cooking. It is also called chickpea flour or besan. I happened to have homemade ketchup and homemade quick-pickled onions in my refrigerator, and they dressed these fritters very nicely indeed.

Serves 4

400g (14 oz) floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2-4 green chilies, roughly chopped (remove the seeds to reduce heat, if you like)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

Small bunch of cilantro, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

150g (5 1/2 oz) gram flour, or use all-purpose, plus extra for dusting

1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons curry powder, hot or mild

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger root

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 soft white buns or burger buns, split in two, toasted and buttered

Mix of finely sliced red onion, pickled chilies and ketchup, to serve

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain well and mash, adding salt and pepper to taste.

While the potatoes are cooking, blend the chilies with the garlic, cilantro leaves and stalks, and a splash of water to form a coarse paste. Put to one side.

Mix the gram flour with the turmeric, 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, the baking powder, a big pinch of salt and 180ml (6fl) of water to make a thick batter.

Put enough oil in a large frying pan to coat the base, and place over a moderate to high heat. Add the mustard seeds and fry for 30 seconds, until they begin to sizzle and pop, then add the ginger and half the prepared green chili paste and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the remaining curry powder and all the mashed potatoes, season with salt, and mix well to combine. Put to one side until cool enough to handle.

For the green chutney, add the lemon juice to the remaining chili paste and season with salt to taste. Put in a small serving bowl and keep to one side.

Divide the cooled potato mixture into 4 equal balls and pat each ball into a flat burger shaped-patty about 3 cm (1 1/4 inch) thick, and lightly dust in gram flour.

Heat the oil to a depth of 4 cm (1 1/2 inches) in a large nonstick frying pan over a moderate heat until very hot. Work quickly to coat each of the patties in the batter and fry in the hot oil for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden brown all over. Remove from the heat and put aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Place a fried potato vada inside each buttered roll, top with green chutney – and more.

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