Having just arrived in Switzerland, I am not quite used to Sundays when everything is closed. Peaceful and quiet, nice in a way, but nothing compared to the sights and sounds of downtown Bangalore. Not to mention the flavors!
A favorite stop, on the corner of Church Street and Museum Road, is K.C. Das, a fantastic Bengali sweet shop rumored to have invented rasgulla. Though it is known for its sweets (don’t leave without some rasmanjuri!), it also has delicious lunch plates (but go early because they run out!). My favorite meal there is a fragrant plate of hing kachori served with chana daal and dum aloo, with a perfectly soft dahi vada on the side. So, with this in mind, I tried my hand at a partial recreation.
The incredible diversity of Indian food is reflected even in the basics of bread. Someday perhaps I’ll be able to catalogue, or better yet, make them all! But until that day comes, the relevant part is this: Poori is a delicious flatbread made of whole wheat flour (atta) which is fried and puffed to perfection, perfectly crisp on the outside and soft inside. Lucchi, a Bengali counterpoint to poori, is similarly made with all-purpose flour (maida) which makes it extra soft on the inside. When you stuff lucchi it becomes kachori! The stuffing forms a light layer which is beautifully spiced and when you break open the kachori it bursts out with fragrance.
Kachori is also a delicious snack from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which is kind of like a rounded samosa but can have all kinds of fillings and is served with chutney. The type of kachori described in this post (technically called kochuri in Bengal) is much thinner/flatter and is eaten with daal or subzi (vegetables).
Hing Kachori Recipe
The dough is basically just a soft dough made of half maida and half atta (traditionally it would be all maida, but you can use up to half atta without changing the taste or texture too much). Mix the flours with a little bit of salt, hing, and ghee, then add water to form the soft dough. Kneading well really helps this dough (because of the maida), and it should sit for at least 15 minutes (this hydrates the flour, making it easier to roll out, and evens out the dough which helps it cook evenly).
Normally I would make the filling from scratch, but with limited supplies here in Switzerland, I tried a variant using a pre-made mix. However, the mix I had was for the Rajasthani type of kachori, which is differently spiced. To adjust, use half the pre-made mix and half roasted besan. Add a little hing and some kalonji, or adjust in other ways to your taste. Then, just mix with water to make a medium-soft dough. This will be sticky at first but should become more dough-like after it sits for a few minutes.
To form, first roll out some dough into a 2-inch circle, put a smaller (roughly half the size) ball of filling in the middle and wrap it around to seal well. Roll it out and fry like poori! The only difference is that the oil does not have to be as hot. The kachori should puff nicely but stay light colored instead of browning as much as poori.
Chana Aloo Recipe
This was the twist on my part — combining K. C. Das’ chana daal (washed/split chickpeas) and dum aloo (baby potatoes) into one dish. In the pressure cooker, add a little bit of oil. Then add 1 bay leaf, a small piece of cinnamon, 2 cloves, and 1 green cardamom. Let this sizzle for a bit, then add red chili flakes, saunf, mustard seeds, and hing. After a bit more sizzling add some methi (if you add them too soon they become really bitter), 1 chopped tomato, some turmeric and salt. Once this is nicely fried, add a couple handfuls of washed chana daal and some small baby aloo (if you have the ones with the thin skin there is no need to peel them — this adds some texture and extra vitamins!). Add some water and cook it for 1 whistle. Once it is cool enough to open, give it a good stir and mash up a few of the potatoes to get a thicker consistency.
And the final product!
Now just break open the kachori, feel the beautiful aroma, and eat!