Spicy pan-fried taro roots, nice crispy and coated in spices, with hint of tanginess to it which I am so fond of and how I wish I could replicate the smoky flavours of roasted taro roots or kochu as we call it in Bengali. Taro roots are monsoon produce but in my home these were never bought during monsoon because of me as I was sensitive or allergic to this roots. The monsoon rains makes it more allergic and I could not eat it because of constant itching at my throat and even in hands. Though the roots are water-loving but I guess when it comes to the taste, water is still the bad choice.
So winter become the season to enjoy the taro roots at my home, the dry season and probably will have less water content in the roots. Winter was also the season when our old sigree / hearth will make its seasonal appearance. The par boiled taro roots were coated with spices and oil and then left on the bed of slow heating charcoal fire to roast till it gets a nice charred look.
Kochu is one of the favourite food for Bengali, and there exist three to four different types of taro roots, all have their signature way to cook the particular type. Some are enjoyed with tiny shrimps and the others are with hilsa head. Bengali’s fondness for kochu or arbi is perhaps ingrained deep in the history, geography and culture of the region. The Bengal was part of and still it is but the definition has now changed due to rapid urbanization, Sunderban deltaic region. The marshy mangrove swamps offers limited options to its inhabitants. While the diet was largely consisted of hunted wild boars and hare, the women used to wade ponds and marshlands to forage for aquatic plants and shell-fish, small fishes, tiny shrimps, mud crabs and mollusc. The swamps were dug out for arum root and likes and the leaves were boiled and mashed with shrimps to make a paste that they can relish with rice, the prickly spiciness of green chillies and raw mustard oil will make it the most treasured food for them. These roots were part of human diet since the pre-historic times and as we progressed and evolved through ages, we become aware of its potentiality as medicinal plant and nutritional benefits.
Taro roots are starchy and rich source of carbohydrates, more than that present in regular potatoes. But its nutritional benefits are immense, and hence supremely qualified as “Paleo food”. Since I was allergic to taro roots, it was not regular affair at my home. But my parents still insist me on having it as they used to believe that it purifies the blood and a good source of potassium that will keep our heart healthy and functional.
The food allergies has no remedies but my parents were not ready to give it up so easily. One day one of our neighbour aunty exchanged her arbi recipe with Ma and she suggested to use an acidic ingredient while preparing the taro roots and also asked my mom to refrain from adding water to the dish. She followed the recipe and since then we are cooking the arbi same way, year after year as I have never complained again about the allergic reaction to the taro roots. I guess it has been taken care of by the acidic ingredients like lime or tamarind, and tamarind remains my favourite till date. I found it simply irreplaceable in the dish. The original recipe did not use the garlic, it was no onion no garlic recipe but since I devour the burnt flavor of roasted garlic, hence I have used it here. The taro roots are slimy in nature, so to make it little crisper I have used the chickpeas flour or besan. The pan seared taro roots are good to go as snack or you can enjoy it with roti or paratha, feel free to toss some ghee over it. You will love that smoky aroma.
- Taro roots / arbi / kochu / colocasia / arum roots : 250 gm
- Garlic : 10 -12 cloves
- Dry red chillies: 3-4
- Mustard seeds : ½ tsp
- Ajwain seeds / carom seeds: ½ tsp
- Ginger grated : ½ tsp
- Chickpea flour / besan: 2 tsp
- Turmeric powder: ½ tsp
- Chilli powder : ½ tsp
- Coriander powder: 1 tsp
- Tamarind paste / amchur or dry mango powder/ lime : ½ tsp or more
- Salt to taste
- Mustard oil / or any vegetable oil : 3 tbsp
- Curry leaves : a handful
- Ghee : 2 tsp (optional)
- Wash and boil the taro roots till just cooked through. Peel the taro roots and rub the taro roots well with salt and turmeric. Let it sit for 10- 15 minutes.
- In a pan heat the oil, temper it with mustard seeds, dry red chillies, ajwain seeds and curry leaves.
- Add the garlic cloves and roast it for couple of minutes till it attains a beautiful brown hue.
- Add the taro roots and fry on medium heat.
- Sprinkle the chickpea flour or besan over it, keep sauteing it.
- In a small bowl mix the grated ginger, all the spices and tamarind paste and blend it well.
- Add this to the taro roots and keep frying it.
- Check for salt and seasonings.
- Cover, lower the heat to minimum and steam cook till done.
- Stir in a spoonful of ghee over it, if using and serve hot with roti or paratha.