There is an Indian restaurant here in Houston that I absolutely adore called Pondicherri. They serve classic dishes as well as street food. The food is often a bit Indian-American fusion and always perfectly spiced.
The restaurant calls their addictive fries ” Desi fries.” As far as I can tell, they’re fries spiced with chaat masala*, easy enough to have at home once you have the spice blend made. My fries aren’t curly like Pondicherri’s, and I bake mine instead of frying them, but these are just as addictive and the perfect accompaniment to a veggie burger.
I’ve made chaat masala before, but since then I’ve acquired some new ingredients – ajwain seeds and kashmiri chili powder – and I think I nailed it this time. I used the recipe from eCurry as a guide. (I also like the recipe I used last time as the recipe author lists which ingredients are optional, making this easier to put together than some recipes.)
Chaat masala ingredients clockwise from top left: black salt (it’s pink!), amchoor powder, ginger powder, Kashmiri chili powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, ajwain seeds, Tellicherry black peppercorns, and in the center, arbol chilies.
Just to tell you how scrumptious these were, I started with a single huge Russet potato weighing over a pound and a half, intending this to make four servings. The two of us ate all the fries in one sitting.
*A review of the restaurant tells me that the spice is garam masala, but I definitely taste the sulphur flavor of black salt and the tang of amchoor powder, so I’m sticking with chaat masala.
I like Russet potatoes best for oven fries, but use what you have on hand. Yukon Golds are nice too, and require less oil to keep them from sticking to the pan.
- 4 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon ajwain seeds
- 4 whole cloves (or 1/8 teaspoon ground)
- 2 dried red chilies (I used arbol chilies) stems removed
- 2-1/2 teaspoons black salt (kala namak) or regular salt
- 1 teaspoon amchoor powder
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder or paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1-1/2 pounds potatoes
- 2-3 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral tasting oil
- Chaat masala to taste (I added 1 teaspoon)
Heat a dry skillet to medium. Toast the coriander, cumin, peppercorns, ajwain seeds, cloves, and chilies. Transfer to a spice grinder. Add the black salt or regular salt, amchoor powder, chili powder or paprika, and ginger powder. Grind. Makes about 1/4 cup.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Oil a large baking pan. Cut potatoes into fries about 1/2 inch on a side. Toss with the canola oil and transfer to the pan. Bake for 15 minutes, turn over, and bake for another 15-25 minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle with the chaat masala until the fries taste salty enough to you - you'll need about a teaspoon.