Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shakarkandi (Spicy Sweet Potato)




Lahore, beloved. My adopted city. 25th largest in the world. Steeped in history. The food and cultural capital of the country, a city of crowded tree-lined roads and pulsating bazaars. Lahore gets under your skin, makes you fall in love with its faded elegance; winding, bumpy, messy streets, its shady gardens and even the noisy hum of its bazaars. 

Walking through the narrow, colorful alleys of dupatta gali in winter, your senses are constantly teased by the wafting, pungent aromas of samosas and masala chips frying or saccharine-sweet tea brewing as your ears adjust to the sounds of women chatting with their companions or bargaining with vendors over the loud and incessant sounds of electricity generators humming, filmi music blaring, and dozens of sewing machines buzzing in unison. As you stroll, stopping to glance at a fabric or a sample of embroidery, a vendor will call after you, "Would you look at this? Touch and feel how smooth it is .. it came in just yesterday .. I have the best price ..  but wait! At least look! You won't find this anywhere .. O Baji! (sister) Stop!". He may jog a short distance behind you, fabric in hand, convincing you to stop and consider. Or his pleas will be taken up by his competitors, "You want a Pashmina shawl? Is it winter fabric you want? I have this new Marina fabric ... just look!". You might stop, after all, curiosity getting the better of you. Or, if you are like me, you will want to get away from the dizzying bright displays of sequins and bangles, glittering embroidery and all that noise and step out to the street - wind your way between impatiently honking, stalled traffic and head over to where the smoke is rising from a thela (push-cart) displaying baked sweet potatoes and clementines decorated around a heap of hot charcoal

Photo Credit: www.dawn.com
"Dass rupay ki Shakarkandi (10 Rupees worth of sweet potato)", you request the thela-waala (peddlar/street hawker) and then watch as he dumps a sweet potato into the mound of coals, pokes it a few times, digs it out and places it on a layer of torn newspaper in his left hand while he quickly slashes it with his right one, cubing it, he shakes a zesty spice mix over it and drenches it with a few generous squeezes of clementine juice with his coal-blackened, sooty hand. He then sticks a toothpick or two into the cubes of the steaming sweet potato, wraps the newspaper around them and hands the package to you. Throwing caution and all thoughts of hygiene to the wind, you dig into the unbelievably delicious Shakarkandi, mouth burning. What a high. 

For me, Shakarkandi is synonymous with freezing, foggy winters in Lahore when the sun doesn't shine for days and days: this simple little snack chases all the blues away.


One quiet morning, as I moved around my kitchen in silent nostalgia while I prepared vegetables to steam for the baby's meals that day, it hit me: It's so easy to make Shakarkandi at home. Why had I never done this before in all these years? There is no long list of ingredients. All you need is: sweet potatoes, clementines, chaat masala. The latter is not a fancy ingredient, it's a simple spice blend that you might easily find at your local South Asian store. If not, here's a recipe to make your own.








 

19 comments:

My Little Space said...

Hi there, you're one of the NuNaturals giveaway. Do drop by.
Kristy

I Wilkerson said...

Mmmm, sounds wonderful! What a great twist on sweet potatoes!

Sage Trifle said...

Oh how I enjoyed your reminisce of Lahore, and how I would love to visit there. The shakarkandi sound wonderful for a cold winter day like today and since I happen to have everything on hand to make them. . .

Needful Things said...

I wonder how you'll like it, Rocquie - you must tell me!

croquecamille said...

This sounds divine!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a wonderful picture you paint! I can really imagine being there :)

Beth said...

Your sweet potatoes sound amazing - but what I'm really interested in is Lahore! You used to live there? I'm totally intrigued!

Coffee and Crumpets said...

I went to Lahore when I was very young so I remember very little of the day to day life. I am quite sure it is very different now. Then or now, I am sure the food has remained excellent, like all street food....which I was never allowed to eat.
I would've loved these sweet potatoes that's for sure.
Thanks for stopping by my site and letting me discover yours!

Nazneen

Mary said...

This sounds wonderful! I've not yet had the dish but intend to try it. Have a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Redawna said...

Loved hearing about smells sights and sounds of Lahore.

These sound fantastic! I look forward to giving them a try. For whatever reason we never ate sweet potatoes growing up but since I have discovered them I found that I really enjoyed them.

Kim said...

I don't know that sweet potatoes have ever sounded so exotic or delicious! I can't wait to try these. I'll look for the chaat masala next week. I've never even heard of some of the spices in it. This is exactly what fuels my love for food -- discovering new tastes like this.

Your descriptions of Lahore are so alluring and intoxicating! You are so lucky to have been there. Paris of the East sounds wonderful.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

You have a lovely way of describing things so that we feel like we are there with you :)

Erica said...

That sounds delicious....your pictures are amazing!

Needful Things said...

@Redawna - never ate sweet potatoes?! You have to remedy that immediately!

@Kim - it was/is wonderful. Ah, I'm hankering for a visit back :(

Kim said...

This was my lunch today. I discovered a new Indian grocery store last week where I found the chaat masala. I also bought a huge bag of garbanzos and cooked them last night and yep-- this is great on those, too.

I love baked sweet potatoes and I am pretty sure chaat masala (plus the clementines!) is going to entice me to cook them much more often.

Chaya said...

I love sweet potatoes and I know, I would love this. The baby is adorable and I am glad, I discovered, you are posting. Good to see you.

Gemma Chew said...

Beautiful photos! I love sweet potatoes!
http://www.rosychicc.com/

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com said...

Mmmm... looks so delish and great use of chat masala :)

Needful Things said...

@Chaya - thanks for revisiting!

@Gemma & Kiran - thank you!

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