A Colourful Spicy Sweet and Sour Stir Fry Dish
At the customary sumptuous buffet lunch following my niece’s engagement at Avion Hotel in Mumbai I was pleasantly surprised to see Veg Jalfrezi on the menu.
My mouth watered as I looked at this appetizingly colourful dish comprising crisp crunchy tempting panoply of vegetables – onions, tomatoes, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, beans, green peas, potatoes, green chillies…
I placed a generous helping of Jalfrezi on my tongue, closed my eyes…the Jalfrezi was exceptional…the vegetables fresh and crunchy and the distinctive flavoursome, zesty, spicy, sweet and sour taste clearly coming through.
When I was a small boy, Jalfrezi, both the Veg and Non Veg version, was a regular feature on restaurant menus.
It was the onslaught of Punjabi and Mughlai Cuisines, the increasing popularity of the Kormas, the Koftas, the “kadhai” and “butter” makhanwala curries and gravies, the preponderance of the ubiquitous paneer, that gradually pushed Jalfrezi out of most popular menus and now one gets this unique dish only at select restaurants.
The stir-fry Jalfrezi method of cooking is different from the traditional Indian Curry Recipes… in fact, Jalfrezi is an Anglo-Indian dish…a relic, a culinary gift, of the Raj.
Jalfrezi is not a curry or gravy, it a stir fry dish which must look colourful and you must be able to identify the various vegetables (and meats, if any) which be of crisp consistency and taste lip-smacking yummy.
Jalfrezi literally means “hot-fry” but is probably better translated as “stir-fry”. The term jalfrezi entered the English language at the time of the British Raj in India. Colonial households employed Indian cooks who would use the jalfrezi method of cooking to heat up cold roasted meat and potatoes. Some say that during the Raj, the British created this method of reheating left-overs, especially left-over meats.
Others say that Jalfrezi has its roots in the Calcutta region of India at the time of the British Raj. They credit the Governor General for the state of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys who enjoyed spicy Indian foods for inventing this dish. In Bengal, ‘Jhal’ means spicy hot. Jhal led to Jal, and to this they probably added “fry” and “jee” which probably became “zee” – jal…fry…zee.
It is easy rustle up a delicious jalfrezi. To put it in a nutshell – Jalfrezi is a simple dish…the Indian version of Chinese stir-fry made with curry spices.
Take a variety of vegetables… onions, tomatoes, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, beans, green peas, potatoes, green chillies…yes, plenty of green chillies to make it zesty and spicy…cut the vegetables into small pieces…slice a few onions and grate a few onions.
Remember that this a stir-fry recipe so you have to keep stirring vigourously throughout the cooking process.
Heat oil in a pan…add cumin seeds…when they sputter add the grated onions and stir…when translucent stir in ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, a nice amount of red chilli powder and coriander powder…stir… if you want to the Jalfrezi to be a bit sumptuous you may add some rich creamy paste – roasted cashew-nut, almond and dry fruit paste. Stir the mixture till it starts separating from sides of the pan. Now add all the vegetables, chopped tomatoes, sliced onions and slit whole green chillies, stir continuously till cooked crisp and crunchy…the tomatoes will release adequate moisture but should the vegetables stick to the pan you may add a bit of water…not too much… otherwise the vegetables will lose their crispness and crunchiness.
Season with salt, garnish with fresh green coriander and eat hot with piping hot rotis, chapattis or with fresh soft buns or pav…
As I said earlier, Jalfrezi is not a curry or gravy, it a stir fry dish which must look appetizingly colourful and you must be able to identify the various vegetables (and meats, if any) which must be of crisp consistency and yummy zesty taste.
I prefer not to overwhelm my Jalfrezi with too many spices and chillies, but if you like it nice and spicy go ahead.
You can make this with meats too, but in deference to the wishes of my favourite vegetarian reader (who says that I always give Non-Veg recipes) this time I have given you the Vegetarian version of Jalfrezi.
Isn’t the recipe breathtaking in its simplicity…?
Try it… relish the Jalfrezi to your heart’s content…you’ll love it…
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
PS – If you liked this recipe I am sure you will enjoy reading Appetite for a Stroll