This is the kind of simple food I grew up eating. Fried coins of arbi or colocasia root dunked in a mildly-spicy tomato gravy with a basic tempering makes the kind of soul-satisfying sabzi that goes great with rotis or alongside a bowl of dal and rice. As Indians, we know how well soupy dal and mushy rice pair with karari bhindi (fried okra) or fried potatoes, but on nights we’d tire of those, I’d look forward to arbi in all its forms- twice-fried like aloo tuk with all the sookhe masale (dried spices), as cutlets, or fried and tossed with tomatoes.
While the arbi holds its shape best if you deep-fry the arbi and then add it to the tomatoes in the pan, you could also pressure-cook the arbi for one whistle and once the arbi is cool, peel the skin, cut it into medallions and add it to the gravy to soften further which makes the finished product a bit sticky, but delicious nonetheless.
Arbi Tamate Mein
Yield 4 as a side
Arbi or colocasia root is cut into medallions, fried, then added to crushed tomatoes and finished with ground spices. Utterly simple to make, this tastes great with both rotis, as well as an accompaniment to a meal of simple dal and rice.
Vegetable Oil for deep-frying, plus 1 1/2 tbsp extra for cooking
Kachalu or Arbi 500g
Tomatoes blitzed to yield 2 cups
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Garlic 6 cloves, minced
Mustard seeds 1 tsp
Curry leaves 6-7
Ground coriander powder 1 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Green chillies 2, slit lengthwise and chopped
Coriander a small bunch, chopped to serve
Pressure cook the arbi for 1 whistle and take it off the heat. Alternately, boil the arbi till fork tender. Let the arbi cool for a bit, then peel off its skin and chop it into medallions.
In a kadai that you use for deep-frying, heat a few cups of oil till ready for frying. Fry the medallions of arbi in batches till crisp on the outside. Drain the arbi on paper towels and keep ready on the side.
Heat the 1 1/2 tbsp of oil in a fresh kadai and when the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and garlic. Let the aromatics splutter for about ten seconds before tipping in the crushed tomatoes. Add the 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and a bit of salt. Let this cook over medium-high heat till the oil begins to separate from the sides of the tomato mix.
Check to see that there's no raw tomato flavour left. Add to this the ground coriander powder, the chilli powder, the slit green chillies and some more salt to taste and add in the arbi. Stir everything together and let it combine, covered over low heat for 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve hot.