Aloo ki Bhujia

Comfort(ed) Food

It’s a grey evening in Washington, DC.

The rain, falling heavily, creates a pewter gloss on the road as I am driving home from work.

It makes me want to be back in Lahore, during the unexpected Spring showers, when we sit on the veranda in my ancestral home with my paternal grandmother, known affectionately by everyone as Mader; mother in Dari.

We eat samosas; small, hot, pastry triangles stuffed with cumin-spiced potatoes.

I slowly peel away the crisp, oily pastry, letting the spiced filling fall onto my plate.

I like to dunk the pastry in the spicy mint chutney and pass the plate on to Ami, my mum, who gives me that ‘Allah-doesn’t-like-little-girls-who-waste-food-when-children-in-the-Sudan-are-starving-look’ and eats the remainders.

My Aunt pours a cup of dark amber-hued tea for Mader from the tea trolley.

With a splash of milk it turns a bronze opaque.

She passes the teacup to Mader, who waves her hand, ignoring the offer, saying, instead, “My Damasks, my poor Damasks.”

She doesn’t want to thank The Lords Above for the rain, for she can only lament as the fragile, dusty pink petals of her Damask roses start to droop and fall to the ground, being washed away into the red soil with the rain.

Mader prefers “roses on her table, than diamonds on her neck,” like Emma Goldman.

As the rain hits the brick driveway more intensely and starts splashing water onto us in the veranda, our mothers grab our hands and pull us indoors.

My cousins and I want to play in the rain, but we’ve been told that we’ll catch the cold of our life, because “that’s what the Spring showers do to little, disobedient girls.

Mader stays there, watching the rain as it washes her favorite mango tree, which she has tended with her gardener under the white-hot Lahore sun.

As I arrive home in DC, Ami and I decide against eating out, as originally planned. I want those samosas we used to have in Lahore as the Spring showers glossed the city. This time, I’ll eat the potatoes, too.

One of my favorite comfort foods is anything which has potatoes in it; a simple Pakistani dish of potatoes, with the added nutty fragrance of zeera (cumin seeds), called Aloo ki Bhujia or Zeera Aloo, comes to mind.

To me, comfort food should not require too much fiddling or prepping.

Not that peeling and slicing potatoes is labour-intensive.

But, I just want to be comforted (and lazy).

I slink upstairs to change out of my office attire. I hear clanging pots as Ami reaches deep into her drawer, to take out the Cuisinart for slicing the potatoes.

Later, we sit on her bed, with trays on our laps, our fingers tearing the steaming, chewy chapati into small pieces, to scoop up spicy, unctuous slices of Aloo ki Bhujia.

Something from the Lifetime channel for women is on the telly, and we sit there content to be indoors, under the goose down duvet while the rain continues to splatter outside the bay window.

Now married, with those rainy Washington, DC days in the past, some days I come home from work and wish for my mother to be here to prepare that comforting food I am too lazy to make myself.

All it requires is some slicing of potatoes.

But, the way mothers can do it, well, you know…

These are gorgeous in an omelette the next day.

They are also lovely served alongside a simple meat dish, for example a steak or roast chicken.

Monsoon photo credit: AFP/GETTY IMAGES The Telegraph
Damask roses photo credit: Rosse Bacche

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Aloo ki Bhujia

Yield: 2
Author: Shayma Saadat


  • frying pan or a pot with a large diameter A lid is required. I use an All-Clad Copper Core 10 in diameter sauté pan, see here.
  • Optional For slicing the potatoes, a Cuisinart with a standard slicing disk or a mandoline.


  • 2 lb potatoes, (I use the red potato variety)
  • 3 tbsp corn oil
  • 3 tsp zeera, (cumin seeds)
  • 1 tsp salt (or suit to your taste)
  • 1-2 tsp red chili pepper flakes (adjust according to taste, please start with 1 tsp)
  • 2-3 pinches of haldi, (turmeric)
  • handful fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped fine, including the sweet stems


  • Peel the skin off of the potatoes and slice the potatoes, lengthwise, into half.
  • Slice the potatoes, thinly, into half-moon shapes, (this will be quicker if you use the Cuisinart with its slicing disk, or a mandoline).
  • In a pan add the oil and turn the heat to medium.
  • Add the zeera and when it starts to sputter, turn the heat to low and immediately add the potatoes, salt, red chili pepper flakes, a few pinches of haldi.
  • With a wooden spatula, gently move the potatoes around in the pan for 5 minutes, so they are all evenly coated with zeera, oil, salt, chili and turmeric.
  • Cover with a lid and let the potatoes cook in their own steam for 20-25 minutes.
  • Bear in mind that the cooking time for the potatoes will vary, depending on the variety you are using.
  • Check for doneness at the 15 minute mark and give the potatoes a gentle stir, (they will be quite fragile). This will give you an indication as to how much longer the potatoes should be cooked. Mine cook in a total of 20 minutes.
  • When the potatoes are done, sprinkle liberally with the chopped coriander stems and leaves straight into the pan and give it a gentle whirl with the spatula.
  • Serve with chapati; a Pakistani whole-wheat flat bread.

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  1. Yet another delicious recipe that I will be trying. I would attempt to make chapati but think I’ll leave that to my favourite family owned cafe/supermarket where they also make fresh samosas daily. xx

  2. What a beautiful post, as always! And I’m craving potatoes now!

    (And in a way, I wish it was snowing outside so I can cuddle under a blanket at home!)

  3. Do you use cumin seeds, or ground cumin? It looks like cumin seeds from the photo, but I want to make sure.

    So Lovely, come over one day soon and let’s make the potatoes together!

    Fantastic, evocative post as always, Ms. Spice Spoon. xx

  4. @Dave and @Su-Lin Thank you so much.

    @Wzzy Thank you for your lovely words and also, for asking about the cumin- yes I use cumin seeds. I shall make that more clear in my post- I thank you for that.

    @So Lovely Thanks, as always, for your sweet words. I had a hand injury some years ago, so I cannot knead. My chapatis are from the Pakistani supermarket, and they’re very delicious 🙂

  5. Nothing like a good read at Spice-Spoon and zeera aloo just makes it better! Love the connect. This is just what keep me addicted to blogging and my fave food blogs!
    HUGS darling!!

  6. Sometimes (actually most times) the simple things are what linger longest in the memory and on the tastebuds. They tend to be the most comforting too – so i can totally see where you’re coming from with this lovely simple dish. Cumin and potatoes are made for each other…

  7. @Maninas Thank you, nothing like the smell of toasted cumin in the home.

    @Deeba Darling, thanks for visiting- come over, I’ll have the namkeen stuff ready and you bring your phenomenal cakes. x

    @The Grubworm You’re so right. Lentils are my other comfort food- and that requires no slicing, so I make it myself, often! Yes, cumin and potatoes are most certainly MFEO 😉

    @A Bowl of Mush Thank you, coming from someone who has beautiful photos on their blog, I am flattered by the compliment.

  8. my favorite too. But im too lazy to use the Cuisinart. Just do it by hand. Im sure it will taste better if done with the machine.

  9. ahhhh, when you mentioned cumin you meant the seeds. LOVELY. the flecks of the cumin seed against the potato slices are beautiful. i love the flavor of the seed more too. this looks great – love the story too!

    i want to be comforted too – this weather stinks. but i’m glad you’re getting rain down there instead of snow!

  10. Oh Shayma, I know just what you mean. Sometimes I really long to come home to the smells of a comforting meal being cooked. Alas, that’s the burden of adulthood, I suppose; the one who was cared for becomes the caretaker. Or at least the responsible party 😉 Luckily, I find cooking and eating comforting, so I suppose it all evens out. Great recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

  11. ooohh i love aloo bhujia with zeera paired with a crispy paratha.. now thats my top most comfort food! thank you for the recipe, it looks so divine that i’m convinced to try it 🙂 and you know thats rare!

  12. Aaah Shayma,
    You have such a way with words. Your post leaves me feeling nostalgic for my Maman as well as hungry for the comforting flavors of your delicious dishes. You must write a novel soon. I cannot get enough.

  13. Shayma
    I love that post! Especially the photo of the man daydreaming on his raft in the middle of the river!
    Potatoes and cumin are a marriage made in heaven in my book. But you’re right it is always so much better to have someone special fix them “for you!”

  14. Yum, yum, yum! Looks very very good. Remind me to share my Bhujia receipe with you. Its quite unique..

  15. The introduction of potatoes multiplied the Irish population beyond imagination, but it can be only in the Indian sub-continent that cooks improvised 1000 ways of cooking potatoes!!!

    Aloo bhujia…with cumin seed or qusuri methi (whats the western name?) can convert anyone to an instant vegetarian. Thanks, Shayma for after all presenting us with this Punjabi jewel!!!

    Gourmand salivating…

  16. Aaloo zeera, khatti daal and garam chappati, these are a few of my favourite things. Lovely post.

  17. Inspired by your post, I had to go home and make a potato curry myself, actually! 🙂 I tempered the oil with 1 tsp of panch phoron, plus 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds and cumin each, before adding onions. I also used ginger, garlic, green chilli, turmeric, a little ground cumin and coriander, and tomatoes. It’s delicious and it smells heavenly! This is my dinner tonight!

  18. @Sabiha The machine certainly does make the slices more uniform- but, like you, am too lazy to use the Cuisinart, we’ll leave that to Ami. Thanks for visiting, Aunty.

    @Nakedbeet Potatoes and lentils, my two fave comfort foods. Thank you for your kind words.

    @Azitajan You are always too kind, how about I make the cumin potatoes and you bring your Famous Firni.

    @We Are Never Full Thank you so much for visiting. Cumin seeds are used more widely than the powder in potato-based dishes, perhaps for textural contrast? Hope you’re having something warm and hearty to deal with the snow down there!

    @Bria Thank you. I enjoy it, too, but sometimes I just want my mother to be here and take over the kitchen. I love what you said about the person who is cared for becomes the caregiver. The cycle of life!

    @Fati Darling, thank you so much, though I do know you’ll have your hands full for the next, oh, year or so 😉

    @Aicha Darling girl, thanks for always saying the loveliest of things. I know how close you are to your maman so know exactly how you feel. x

    @Taste of Beirut Joumana, thank you. That photo is from The Telegraph- the man is lying on a bench in a park during the monsoons in Lahore. I do wonder how he got there in the first place! Potatoes are my weakness, truly.

    @Fran Grazie bella, tanti baci. x

    @Razzledazzle Thank you, I know what an amazing cook you are, so please do share the recipe with me. If the recipe is not a family secret, please share it with us on this forum, too 🙂 I still make your aubergine raita, which you made for us back in uni. The one in which you first roasted cumin seeds, then ground them into a powder. You added this to yoghurt and oven-roasted aubergines.

    @Gourmand Qasuri methi is called fenugreek in English, you are so right, it is those of us from the Indian sub-continent who have come up with a 1000 ways of making the potato- we do love our spices, don’t we? Thank you, as always, for your support and love.

    @Ayeesha Thank you so much, please do tell us about khatti dahl (tart dahl?), I have never had it.

    @Maninas Happy to have inspired. It sounds delicious, especially with the tomatoes and chillies. I like potatoes with tomatoes, too. Buon appetito!

    @Libertylondongirl Thanks so much, and congrats on your Grazia interview. x

  19. Shayma, I am so happy you linked your beautiful site to food 52. Really lovely. I am bookmarking to make sure I miss none of your wonderful recipes and stories!

  20. @Petulia Thanks, lovely. Dear Boss, I love my day job, I didn’t put Petu up to writing this 😉 Hope all the wedding dress designing is fun fun fun. x

    @Jennifer Ann It was so nice to have ‘met’ you through Food 52. Thanks for your compliment, I look forward to more banter on Food 52!

  21. I love the stories. I echo the above sentiment, you should write a book? I have to try this recipe and hope it turns out the same. Do you add water at all to the potatoes as they are cooking?

  22. @Eman 🙂 Thanks so much. Ami advised against adding water. It will make the potatoes mushy. She said you could add a splash of water with your hands, a “chhirka”. Unfortunately, you have to use the full amount of oil, otherwise the potatoes will stick to one another. You could also use a non stick pan if you want to use less oil. x

    @Kitchen Butterfly Well then I look forward to seeing your gorgeous photos! x

    @Lizzie Thanks so much. Spiced potatoes. True. Sigh. x

  23. Fantastic post and recipe Shayma, I agree comfort food should be free of too much effort but peeling those potatoes is definitely worth it. Especially if you have leftovers for an omelette the next day 🙂

  24. Shamz:

    I made the Allo ki Bhujia last night. My house actually smelt nice after cooking Pakistani food, it must be the zeera! I added a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice in the end to give it a kick. Great! Now to get my husband to share some with the cook….
    Thanks so much for posting this simply delicious recipe for us. Your story leading into the recipe made every mouthful much tastier. xx

  25. @Scandilicious Thanks, Signe. The omelette was a nice treat the next day. If only I had some of those Scandinavian cardamom buns 🙂

    @Adela Darling thank you for telling me about your experience. I think “cooking” is a 4-letter word for a lot of men tee hee I like the addition of the lemon, must have really packed a nice punch. x s

  26. Oh dear, Shayma, I’m so late to this post. But I shall make them tonight. Their glossy, cumin-studded deliciousness has made me salivate at 9:52am. Thank you for this.

    Love, Miss W

  27. @Miss Whistle Thank you so much, dear Miss W. Potatoes are good at all hours, aren’t they? x s

    @Olga Thank you so much Olga, for visiting. You are right, these are great with yoghurt and tomatoes, too. The spices are common to both Pakistan and India, as we share so much across the region.

  28. Hello Shayma:

    Even though my car is buried under snowdrifts–we got more than a foot of snow here in NY last night–I’ll make sure the vehicle is dug out by tomorrow.

    After reading this wonderful post, I’m determined to make Aloo ki Bhujia this weekend. Yes, it means a trek trek across the tundra for whole cumin seeds and fresh cilantro, but I don’t mind.

    Potatoes are a favorite comfort foods for me as well. I think I will serve Aloo ki Bhujia with an omelette, as you suggest.

  29. Reporting back: This recipe was a huge hit.

    I love the flavors and textures in this dish. The toasty whole cumin seeds contrast deliciously with the soft, thinly sliced potatoes. And it makes makes a beautiful, golden presentation.

    I doubled the recipe to serve five. Next time I will triple!

  30. i love your writing style. shall now browse through more of your current posts. kind regards, T

  31. Your writing is magic! Just lovely and dreamy and I want to be sitting there with you and eating samosas. And what a wonderful recipe.

  32. @Helen tee hee. Carb with carb, sometimes allowed. Thanks for visiting.

    @Lorraine Thank you for your wonderful comment and for including this recipe in your lovely blog’s ‘menu of the week’ section. i do hope the snow has melted- we seem to be experiencing an early Spring up here in the North, hope it is the same for you. Potatoes and eggs, I feel, were meant to be. My friend makes her ‘khagina’ (my post, September 2009) with potatoes, which is divine.

    @Tigree Thanks for the visit and the kind words.

    @Jamie Thanks so much, Jamie. We may be sitting together, one day 😉 And you’ll bring the pudding, of course. x s

  33. Dear Shayma,

    Excellent recipe! In Canada, we long to have food like this…After coming here, I have become half chef myself 🙂



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