Sweet potato, the oft ignored veggie
Sweet potatoes are, I think, a hugely ignored vegetable in the average Indian kitchen. The potato is an almost universal favourite, while the sweet potato seems to have limited, reluctant acceptance. Well, at least, that’s the case in the average Indian kitchens I know of, including mine. We don’t use much of sweet potatoes, only in the occasional tikki or undhiyu, which is rather sad considering how very nutritious they are.
When I came across this new variety of sweet potato in Namdhari’s Fresh recently, I was super excited to try it out. I picked up a couple of them, which got converted into this beautiful, beautiful Shakkariya Nu Shaak or Gujarati-style curry. It was so very delectable that it instantly became a family favourite! I see myself lugging home a lot more of sweet potatoes in the near future, experimenting a whole lot more with them.
The sweet potatoes I picked up at Namdhari’s, with relatively thin skin and orange-ish flesh within.
Why should we be eating more sweet potatoes?
Typically considered a winter vegetable, sweet potatoes possess several nutrients. They are a rich source of various vitamins, minerals and fibre. They are said to be great for brain health as well as gut health.
Sweet potatoes are believed to be a better, healthier substitute for potatoes. Sweet potatoes can, in fact, be substituted in most dishes that call for the use of potatoes. Personally, though, I wouldn’t do that – I think there are certain dishes specifically meant for sweet potatoes, and the vegetable works best in these dishes. I wouldn’t substitute them in every single dish that requires one to use potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are quite versatile, and can be used in both savoury and sweet foods. The purple variety of sweet potatoes adds a gorgeous, natural colour to food – on our holiday in Thailand, I was awed by the wide use of the purple sweet potato in cheesecakes, breads, curries, sago puddings, ice cream and what not! In the Indian context, the sweet potato goes beautifully in tikkis and undhiyu, as I was saying earlier. This Shakkariya Nu Shaak is an absolutely brilliant way to use it, too.
Shakkariya Nu Shaak, inspired by the Gujarati Undhiyu
The idea of making this curry was inspired by the bold and beautiful flavours of the Gujarati undhiyu. With loads of fresh coconut, coriander, ginger, garlic and green chillies, the sweet-spicy undhiyu has many swooning over it. I guessed the same flavours would work in a sweet potato curry, and they did!
The sweetness of the vegetable was a perfect complement to the spiciness of the ginger and green chillies, and the tartness of the lemon. The coconut and coriander added a lovely texture to the curry, which turned out to be the most flavourful thing I have had in a while. I served it with phulka rotis, and it made for a wonderful accompaniment.
How to make Shakkariya Nu Shaak or Gujarati-style sweet potato curry
I share this Shakkariya Nu Shaak recipe for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop group that I am part of. Every Monday, the bloggers in the group showcase recipes as per a pre-determined theme. The theme this Monday is #WinterVeggieAffair, with all of us are presenting dishes made out of various winter-special vegetables. This theme was suggested by Sasmita, author of the lovely blog, First Timer Cook. I love Sasmita’s photography and her unique twists to regular Indian dishes – you must most definitely check out her blog for these, as well as her traditional Odia recipes. I have had my eyes on her Kabuli Chana Chilli, Pasta Chaat and Achaari Aloo Raita for quite some time now – I’ve got to try them out!
Coming back to the Shakkariya Nu Shaak, it is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those following a plant-based diet. If you want to make this gluten-free, I would suggest skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. This is because most Indian brands of asafoetida have wheat flour mixed in. However, if you can get hold of a reliable brand of gluten-free asafoetida, you can go ahead and use it.
Here’s how I made it.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 2 big sweet potatoes, about 3 cups when peeled and finely chopped
- 2-3 green chillies, as per taste
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
1. Wash the sweet potatoes well under running water, to get rid of any dirt that might be on them. Peel off the skin, and chop into small cubes. Keep ready.
2. Peel the garlic cloves and ginger. Chop the garlic, ginger and green chillies roughly. Grind the chopped garlic, ginger and green chillies to a paste, in a small mixer jar, using a little water. Keep aside.
3. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the mustard, and allow to sputter. Now, add the asafoetida. Allow to stay in for a couple of seconds.
4. Add the chopped sweet potatoes to the pan, along with a little water, turmeric powder and salt. Turn the heat down to low-medium. Cover and cook on low-medium heat, till the sweet potatoes are done. They should be well-cooked, but not overly mushy. This should take 4-5 minutes. In the interim, keep checking on the sweet potatoes, adding a bit more water if they start burning.
5. At this stage, add the ginger-garlic-green chilli paste. Also, add the sesame seeds, grated coconut and finely chopped coriander. Mix well.
6. Cook on low-medium heat for about 2 minutes more. Switch off gas.
7. Mix in the lemon juice. Your Shakkariya Nu Shaak is ready. Serve with rotis or alongside steamed rice and Gujarati Dal.
Tips & Tricks
1. You can add 1/2 teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain) to the tempering, too. I haven’t.
2. Some coarsely crushed roasted peanuts and a dash of garam masala can also be added to this curry. I have skipped them.
3. Don’t skimp on the amount of coconut and coriander used here. These two ingredients add a whole lot of flavour to the curry.
4. Don’t pressure cook the sweet potato, as it might get mushy. Cook it covered for 4-5 minutes, on low-medium heat, and it gets cooked just right.
5. Add only a little water at a time, while cooking the sweet potatoes. Check intermittently, and add a bit more water only when the sweet potatoes get completely dry in the process of cooking.
6. In case you aren’t able to find this variety of sweet potatoes, you can make the curry using the regular version commonly found across India – the one with pinkish skin and white flesh.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!