Thursday, 11 March 2010

Alu Borboti Bhaja / Stir Fried Potaoes and Yard Long Beans

Bhaja means fry or frying in Bengali ... usually a stir fried or deep fried vegetable dish ( of course there is non vegetarian version like the Maach Bhaja / Fish fry too ) that is eaten as a side dish of a meal.

There was ... and still is ... one direct train that I used to board every vacation to go home when I was a student. The journey used to be of two and a half days .... longer if it started late. I was never gregarious ... in fact very quiet ... so kept to myself. A book was enough to make me forget the time or stretch of the journey.

Since I was a regular traveller, one of the attendants became a familiar face to me. I never recognised any other attendant except this man. And strangely he was always there in every journey.

He seemed to keep an eye out for me. Never spoke unless absolutely needed .... and neither did I ... he was always around if I needed anything. I just had to look around and the moment he passed by he would look towards me .... and if I wanted anything, I just had to say it.

I would usually sleep in late ... and he would keep the breakfast pack without disturbing me. But after I got up he would come along, quietly pick up the pack and bring it back hot. I still don't know if it was a fresh pack or he reheated the stuff ... but I always got hot food.

Passengers were not usually pandered to and whatever was on the menu used to be served without any deviation. But for me, if I did not want a full meal, he would readily get an omlette and bread for dinner.

And when we reached our destination he would disappear. I never got 'round to ever thank him ... though I have no idea how I'd have thanked him then ... I used to be so shy. But the bottomline is he just used to do his job ... and disappear. Until another journey.

The train still exists ... but I have long forsaken it for greener pastures.

It was on this train, that I had this Alu and Borboti fry in one of the meals. Never to touch a vegetable then, I somehow liked this fry with the thick and slightly burnt parathas they served.

I have tried making it myself a number of times but could never get the right taste ... and had given up attributing it to that special taste or flavour all outside food have.

Until recently.
I tried making it again ... and this time used my cast iron wok / kadahi and instead of red chilli powder, I used ground black pepper for the spiciness.
The food for the train must have been prepared in large amounts ... so it's natural that it would get slightly burnt ... especially since this is a dry dish. But I purposely burnt it for that charred flavour.

And bingo!!!

Got that taste ... exactly that same rustic flavour. It was so perfect that it took me back to those journeys ... and I remembered the attendant. :-)
The taste also reminded me of such bhajas ( fries ) that were cooked in Thamma's ( paternal grandmom ) kitchen.

It was one of those days when all the snaps came out perfect ... so uploaded all of them. :-p

Need :
Borboti / Long Yard Beans - 1 bunch
Aloo / Potatoes - 1 or 2
Haldi / Turmeric powder - a little
Salt - to taste
Mustard oil - 2 tbsp ( other cooking oils can be used too ... but the flavour would be missing)
Black Pepper seeds - freshly crushed ... to taste

How to :
Wash and cut the beans and the potatoes into medium sized longish pieces ( check out the snaps for an idea).

Heat oil in a kadahi / wok. When it is very hot ( else the potatoes might stick ... unless you are using a non stick vessel), add the vegetables.

Stir well.

Add the haldi and salt.

Cover and cook ... stirring once in a while till the vegetables are done.

Add the freshly crushed black pepper and raise the heat. Stir fry on high heat till the vegetables start to char a little.

Remove and serve hot.

Enjoy this simple dish with some hot rice and dal.

Great with parathas too!

Am coming up with the all time fav Lauki ka Halwa in the next post ... so hang on till then friends. :-)


  1. lovely pics. And train memories. Always seem more romantic when read than experienced. Actually read like a Ruskin Bond story.

    My Mom makes a bean fry which my veg averse wife loves and tries to replicate. Bean's chopped finner, fried till crinkled in onion and Nigella seeds.

    Liked the look of your one specially with alu

  2. Lovely pics...Stir fry looks yummy yummy...

  3. Lovely! I envy that you had such a great guardian angel to take care of you on the train.

  4. Sharmila, there are guardian angels everywhere. Happens to good people you know ;)

    I love the charred finish in beans especially. Will give this a try with the mustard oil!

  5. Sharmila, you get to meet such nice people. As Indo said, nice things happen to the nice ones :-)

    My Mom makes alu-beans bhaja like this with kalonji and green chilli.

  6. I like the look of this one. will sure try this

  7. Thanks Kalyan! Would love to try that bhaja ... I love vegetables fried till a crinkle. :-)

    Thanks Tina, Nostalgia, Vanamala, Sonia! :-)

    Thanks ISG & Sandeepa! Guardian angel ... right. And that's such a beautiful thing to say. :-)

  8. Dear Sharmila
    You reminded me of the great old days..that slight burnt out here and ther is the key to the taste...
    Of course never tried gol has been always a bit of kalojeere kacha lanka seasoning and lot of turmaric
    Bhalo theko

    ushnish da

  9. Love how the potatoes and beans have browned. Really would like to try this variation.

  10. Wow, pictures are s bright and nice:)Never tried this combo b'4...looks delish:)

  11. lovely experience...Ami o aloo-barbati bhja banai,kalo jeera aar kacha lanka phoron diye and a pinch of sugar and salt to taste..I need some fried with dal always

  12. Thanks Ushnishda! Black pepper is the main thing that gave the flavour I was looking for. :-)

    Thanks RC! Try it once ... real quick. :-)

    Thanks Malar! :-)

    Thanks Indrani! This is a completely different version ... I was looking for particular flavour from my memories. :-)

  13. Seems delicious.
    There is always one stir fried dish at home, specially for dinner as hubby loves dry vegetables and i like the ones with a bit of jhol.
    Sometimes I get lost thinking what to cook for dinner and then you come up with such recipes and inspire me. Thanks so much.

  14. Such a simple and flavorful dish sharmila! thanks for sharing your train memories :)

  15. back home this often accompanied my lunch box with roti or puri. this motsly was an winter affair in my childhood and Till now I carve this simple flavorful sturfry dish. lovely click and thanks for bringing back that fond memory.
    bari chollam fire ese abar dakha habe.

  16. Sharmila, tomar alu borboti bhaja rat-ti-rer rutir sathe bhalo jabe. Garam dine bhaat, dal, amer chatni aar aae bhaja daroon lage.
    Aami kancha lanka diye bhajata kori.

    Ajke ruti aar lauer tarkari. Borboti anle bhajata korbo.


  17. Thanks Aparna! Feels nice to know my recipes are liked so much. :-)

    Thanks Parita! :-)

    Thanks Sayantani! Have a great time.:-)

    Thanks Gouridi! :-)

  18. Brown coating on vegies, I am addicted to these kind of food. Lovely clicks Sharmi !!

  19. hey this is so simple yet totally delicious..

  20. You have a lovely blog. Thanks a ton for commenting on my recipe

  21. Hi Sharmila - the subji looks really yummy - I always hated beans - I'll try this subji and see if it helps me make peace with them :-)

  22. Thanks Sashi, Deepa, Sonia! :-)

    Thanks Vaishnavi! If I can, am sure so can you. :-)

  23. Khub bhalo and healthy preparation dear. Very different from other alu borboti bhajas that I had earlier.

    Great Post.


  24. That was cool...I love train rides and ohhh with a book in hand, with no one to disturb you...and with a personal attendant to serve hot food....lucky you Sharmi!! :)

    I specialize in shukno torkari...and only like the kind I make. This is one thing, I never like to have anywhere other than my home. But on train rides...I will devour it!:)

  25. I like having these bhajas with plain ruti and daal. The charred flavor surely gives an interesting twist. It was nice reading your train memories.

  26. Thanks Deepa, Joyee, SRC! :-)

  27. monay hochey top top kore tuley kheye ni. I love this kind of bhaja. emni emni. or with only musur dal and gorom bhaat. amader joint family te shob shomoye lohar kora te ranna hoto, so I still relish that smell. baba ke bolay ekta lohar kadai baniye niye eshechi ekhane.

    post ta pore ki bhalo laglo.. ektu mon tao kharap hoye gelo... janina keno.

  28. I tried this recipe in my cast iron pan today but used green beans instead of borboti as beans is easily available here. Khub bhalo hoyechhe ... simple but flavorful.

  29. Thanks Soma! :-)

    Thanks Anon! :-)


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