The idea for this recipe came out during one of the weekly ritual calls that I make to my mom. It is often a long one; filled with food conversations, ideas, TV shows, rants, gossips, the latest fashion trends etc…. I share more of a girlfriend relationship with my mother rather a daughter one; this caused plenty of problems while growing up but after I hit my 30s, it blossomed into this calm and silent understanding and accpetance of each other.
So now, we don’t tear each other’s head off, we just talk……for hours!
During one of those conversations, my mom mentioned about a cookery competition that she was going to take part in. Oats was the ingredient around which the competition revolved and as the mother-daughter brainstorming went on, the idea of making oats kofte came about. But what next, should we go the Indo Chinese route or should we make a traditional curry with the koftes?
Both of us decided on the Indo Chinese route but her dish turned out be way different from this one. To cut a long story short, her dish didn’t win any prize but we both had a new and rather fascinating dish to add to our culinary repertoire.
If you are familiar with Indo Chinese flavours, then this dish is no surprise except for the fact that oats is the main ingredient in the koftes.
But if you are new to the term ‘Indo Chinese’, then let me give you a brief intro. During the times of the Indo China war, a lot of migrants from China came across the border and settled in the North Eastern states including West Bengal. The community soon realized that food can be a source of livelihood but the traditional Chinese cooking would not work in India due to lack of certain ingrdients and also preference for bolder flavours especially the fascination with heat and spice. This was the beginning of the modern fusion cuisine which came to be known as ‘Indo Chinese’ or ‘Chindian’. The earliest Indo Chinese restaurants opened in Calcutta and other parts of West Bengal and soon this cuisine spread like wildfire all across the country. Today, Indo Chinese food holds a much coveted spot on the tastebuds of this nation.
For this dish, I have gently toasted the oats with onions and aromatics and then mixed it into boiled potatoes to form the koftes. Since I wanted to keep the dish entirely vegetarian, the koftes are lightly dusted with a mixture of corn flour and all purpose flour and shallow fried.
The crucial part of the dish is handling the koftes with a bit of tender loving care! Since there is no heavy coating, the koftes have to be shallow fried with care to avoid breakage. And the same rule that applies to all other Indo Chinese dishes; this one too has to be served warm immediately after preparation.
So enjoy delicious oats koftes dunked in sweet and spicy chilli sauce, Indo Chinese style!
For the koftes:
1. 1 ½ cups raw oats
2. 1 large potato
3. 1 medium onion; finely chopped
4. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped/grated
5. ½ inch ginger, finely chopped/grated
6. 2 green chilli; finely chopped
7. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
8. 5 raw almonds; finely crushed
9. 2 tbsp cornflour
10. 3 tbsp all purpose flour
11. Salt, to season
12. ¼ tsp red chilli powder
13. 6 tbsp vegetable oil; to shallow fry the koftes
For the sauce:
14. 12 medium garlic cloves; finely chopped
15. 1 inch ginger; finely chopped
16. 6 long dry red chilli
17. 1 ½ tbsp red chilli paste
18. ½ tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
19. 1 tbsp soy sauce
20. 2 tbsp tomato sauce
21. 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
22. ½ tsp sugar
23. 1 large onion; cubed
24. 1 yellow bell pepper; cubed
25. 1 tbsp cornflour, dissolved in ½ cup cold water
26. Salt, to season
27. 3 tbsp vegetable oil
28. 1 spring onion; both white and green part chopped
To prepare the koftes:
• Boil the potato, mash and keep aside.
• In a flat pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and saute the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies along with the turmeric powder till the onions are lightly browned.
• Add the crushed almonds and oats; mix well and saute on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt.
• Remove from heat and allow to cool.
• Add the cooled oats mixture to the mashed potato and mix well to combine.
• Shape into small koftes; keep aside.
• In a plate, mix the cornflour, all purpose flour, chilli powder and season lightly with salt.
• Coat the koftes lightly with the flour mixture (it should be a light dusting on the koftes; excess flour will affect the taste of the koftes making it taste doughy).
• Heat the remaining oil in a flat pan and shallow fry the koftes; make sure you turn the koftes carefully to avoid breakage.
• Drain on a kitchen towel.
To prepare the chilli garlic sauce:
• Heat oil in a large wok and add the cubed onions. Stir fry on high heat for a minute and remove.
• Next, add the cubed bell peppers to the wok and stir fry for 30 seconds; remove and keep aside.
• In the same wok (add more oil if necessary), add the dry red chillies, garlic and ginger. Saute on low heat till the garlic is just starting to brown. (Do this on low heat to infuse the oil with maximum flavour from the garlic).
• Next, add the red chilli paste and Kashmiri chilli powder, saute for about 30 seconds and then add all the sauces along with a pinch of sugar.
• Mix well and taste. The measurements given for the sauces must only be a guidance as the taste can vary according to the brands used. So taste and adjust balance of flavours.
• Next add 1 cup water and bring to boil; add the dissolved cornflour and stir in to thicken the sauce.
• Add the onions and bell peppers and mix well.
• Finally add the koftes and mix through without breaking. Season with salt if necessary.
• Remove and garnish with spring onions.
• Serve warm with fried rice or noodles.