Aloo Tiki- Potato Cutlets in the Pakistani Manner

Aloo Tiki

Ami and Nani Ami

Ami and Nani Ami in Murree, Pakistan

It’s dreadfully difficult to find ice in Rome. It’s considered an American thing- ‘ma, tu sei Americana?‘, the server joked with my sister when she requested ice in her coca-cola. It was May, and my dear friend A and I were hosting a party on her terrace and we needed ice for making those sweet, tart mojitos. We were in a crisis- we had no idea where to get it from in Rome- and we needed lots of it.

A and I got together at her place two nights before our party to organise the ice- after all, that was the most important element for the party. When you have mojitos, who needs food? And that’s when my Ami called from Lahore- to tell me that my Nani Ami’s condition was not improving; it was merely a matter of a few days.

A and I canceled the party.

I walked back home that night, along the pine tree-lined avenue of Terme di Caracalla, thinking of the candy-coloured bangles my grandmother sent me every Eid throughout my childhood, with a matching gota kinari kurta shalwar and dupatta. And the tiny packets of mithi saunf, sugar-coated aniseed with a treat inside each of them, either a ring with a “ruby” or a watch made from an elastic band. But the biggest treat were the packets of Rafhan’s strawberry flavoured jelly she used to send, which she knew I loved and made for me every night when I was in Lahore on holiday. And let’s not forget the volumes of Cassette Kahanis, those cassettes every child loved, relaying stories about ethereal beings and dragons and serpents.

Eid was complete with a gold trim outfit, matching bangles and sugar. All a child needs, really.

Nani Ami passed away the morning after. It was that 6 am phonecall which everyone dreads. The time when the phone really shouldn’t ring- unless your best friend has woken up with a stranger after a drunken night of clubbing. Or, if someone you love has died.

I go back to Lahore every year and though my Uncles and their families live in my grandparents’ home, it’s not the same for me. I miss waking up in the air-conditioned room with the smell of motia, the night blooming jasmine on my side table, which Nani Ami used to bring in for me from the garden after her 6am walk. And I miss being asked again and again, ‘aur sunao.’ Smelling of Diorissimo, she would sit at the foot of my bed, asking me to tell her more, even when my eyes would be closing from jetlag.

I dedicate this post to her, to Nani Ami, a wonderful mother and grandmother.

This is her recipe for aloo tiki; potato cutlets.

Aloo Tiki

Aloo Tiki

Aloo Tiki

Aloo Tiki

Serves 4 during teatime or as an appetiser.

Ingredients:
*500 g white potatoes
*Cumin seeds (zeera), roasted.
*2 tbsp minced white onion
*salt to taste
*red pepper chili flakes to taste
*small handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped fine
*1 egg, beaten
*neutral oil (such as sunflower or corn) for shallow frying

Preparation:
*Wash, scrub and quarter the potatoes.
*Bring a large pot of water to boil.
*Cook potatoes in pot of boiling salted water for 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
*In the meantime, place a small non stick frying pan on high heat, add cumin seeds and swirl the pan gently, in order to make sure the seeds are roasted uniformly. When you can smell the aroma and the seeds begin to darken, immediately remove the pan from the burner. Transfer to a plate to stop the cumin from cooking further.
*When the potatoes are fork-tender, drain them, and when cool, remove the skin, (which will come off very easily).
*Mash potatoes with a masher and then with a fork, some lumps may remain, but don’t worry, as this will give a nice texture to the end product.
*Add roasted cumin seeds, minced onion, salt, chili flakes and coriander leaves.
*Shape into small patties as in photo above. (You may want to wet your palms a little bit to prevent the potato mash from sticking to them).
*Place a large non stick frying pan on medium high heat and add a few tablespoons of oil for shallow frying.
*Dip each patty into egg mixture (see photo above) and carefully transfer to frying pan. Fry about 40 seconds on each side, (be careful when flipping patty), till golden.
*Serve hot with a mint chutney or Thai sweet chili sauce.

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Comments

  1. cookinboots says:

    Beautiful. To your nani-amma xxx

  2. Ciao ! I miss my grandma smells and stories too, I keep a little bottle of her perfume to smell sometimes, her dish would have been gnocchi di semolino. I really love your aloo tiki, I think my kids will too ! Baci from an iceless town !

  3. These are very much similar to the way my mother’s taught me to make them, except that I combine toasted bread crumbs to make the mixture clump up together and avoid having to dip them in egg – I can somehow never have stuff dipped in egg, the layer that forms around cutlets/shammi kebabs makes me queasy.

    Love the pearl white plate :)

  4. This is a very touching story. Thank you for sharing it Shayma and thank you for sharing you grandmother’s recipe as well.

  5. Lovely tribute.

    There’s not a lot better than fried potato. I’d be tempted to dip them in ketchup…!

  6. shayma says:

    @Rav Thanks, lovely girl. x s

    @Natalia Thank you. Gnocchi di semolino sounds lovely. Unfortunately, Diorissimo has been discontinued, which reminds me of my grandmummy- her signature scent. x s

    @Rabya Sorry to hear that about my recipe :(

    @Magda Always so kind. Thank you.

    @Lizzie Thanks, lovely- I love anything with ketchup. x s

  7. My grandmother used to send us tiny packets of sugar coated aniseed too and those ruby rings :-) I would keep those packets of aniseed for Ramadan, so that I can have it after iftar. So many memories. Always a treat to read your post and recipe.

  8. Every time I read your writing, I feel like I was there — seeing, touching, smelling everything you describe. When are you coming out with a book?? This recipes looks delicious too (gorgeous photos as well), I may even try it with Ketchup too ;) xo

  9. oh no, wasn’t directed towards your recipe – just eggs in particular; yours must be divine in taste without a doubt.

  10. Like I said before life without grandparents sucks.
    You atleast know how to make your nani’s potato cutlets.
    Aniseed packets with ruby rings? :-)
    May Allah grant your nani peace and a place in Janat ul Firdous. Ameen
    In my childhood my naniamma would send over to our house 2 dozen boti walay shami kebabs with explicit instructions ”sirf Umair ke liay” my chotay mamoo and Ammi would intone while laughing and telling me she would never have made them on the farmaish of her own children (indeed God bless her she was one strict Tiger Mom to say the least), and steam roasted boneless chicken pieces for my younger brother.
    Nobody made kebabs like nani amma and I guess nobody ever will be able to for me atleast, not even Ammi. :’-|
    Knitted atleast a couple of sweaters for me each year untill she became ill. I still have my favourite one, a skyblue one with two intricately detailed chicks on the front (Ammi intends to give it to my kids someday InshaAllah).
    Grandmas are the best, and yeah life does suck without them.

  11. shayma says:

    @Kulsum Those saunf packets were so special, weren’t they? Our own traditional sweeties. x s

    @Tricia Ah, wouldn’t that be a dream? A cookbook? Tee hee. Thank you for your lovely words, as always. x s

    @Rabya You can always try them your way- with breadcrumbs. One can always improvise to suit one’s tastes.

    @Umair Thank you for your wonderful comment. The aniseed packets are those tiny pouches of mithi saunf. I don’t even know if they make those anymore. My Nani Ami also used to make steam roasted chicken for me, I have never had anything like that in my life. As for her shami kebabs, you are right, these things cannot be replicated. My Ami has taught me how to make them, but they don’t have the same maza as when my grandmum used to make them. God bless them and God bless your Nani Amma. Ameen.

  12. Shayma – I’m always looking to do something different with potatoes as they are a favorite with the kids, but even they will tire of the same old preparations after a while. These look delightful, delicate and delicious, and I can’t wait to try them out! – S

  13. shayma, such a lovely post and such a mouthwatering recipe! aloo tikki is one of my favorite, with garam garam chai! what a perfect sunday treat….

    one question though, how do you manage to make your patties without them sticking to your hand? i always have a tough time shaping the patties because they stick. any suggestions?

    thanks, and always look forward to your wonderful posts and recipes!

  14. @Oui,Chef Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food- everyone loves them. Thank you for your kind words.

    @Suman Thank you so much-I wet my palms with water whilst shaping the cutlets. Thank you for the question because I have now edited the recipe to reflect this little tip.

  15. Lovely and fitting tribute! There are some things that grandmothers will always do best. For me, it was the best TexMex spicy tacos on my Mum’s side, and toast with condensed milk spread (from a tube) on my Dad’s side. Both snacks that are inextricably bound up with other grandmotherly memories.

    Those potato cutlets look particularly fine, I can;t imagine a better snack than five or six of those and a dollop of sweet chilli. It would be properly tasty, all smooth textures and zingy flavours. Yum.

    There is something about potatoes and subcontinental food. I had the best potato cakes ever in Bhimtal in the foothills of the Himalayas (Uttarakhand, India). I still clearly remember them now, over a decade on.

  16. Comfortable and heavenly x

  17. This is a great post and very thoughful. Your aloo tikki looks divine and I am looking forward to trying to make it. Wonderful photos!

  18. These look lovely – such delicate little potato cakes – and I love the flavours in them.

  19. These look AMAZING! They remind me of one of my pho pho’s recipes…
    I’m definitely going to be trying this recipe. :)

  20. Oops…typo in my last comment (darn iPad!). Anyway…really want to try this one. Loved the old pic you included in this as well…

    Meliha

  21. Thank you for the recipe! Is there any way to replace the egg (for a vegan version)?

  22. @TheGrubworm Condensed milk out of a tube? That sounds impossibly delicious. My grandmum used to make the simplest of dishes for me- poached chicken in a dab of ghee- and I still remember it to this day. Thank you for sharing your memories.

    @Gary Thank you so much.

    @Tarana Hope they turn out good- they are really easy- honest.

    @Corina Thank you for visiting my blog.

    @Meliha Thank you- is your Phupo’s recipe very different? Would love to hear about it.

    @April I asked a few friends who are into vegan cooking- sadly- no, there is no substitute. But you could always just fry them in oil without dipping them in egg. Sorry I could not be of more help.

  23. Najeeb Sabir Mujaddidi says:

    AoA Shayma !
    I’ve tried your recipe, ummmmmm so delicious. I’m not a chef but I love trying various recipes and let family and friends try it and appreciate. I’ve just tried for myself yet, but I’m sure everyone will love it.
    Shayma, I was the only son of my parents and I got so much love from my every relative that you can’t imagine. Now there’s none of them in this world, and I got tears when read your story, remembring the lost days of my life.
    Anyhow, thanks. Take care. Where are you from and what about family? Just dos info, because I’m married and got children, so not to worry about why I asked about your life.
    Allah Haafiz.

    • @Najeeb Walaikum-assalam. Thank you for your comment, and the compliment. Your comment made me sad-I cannot even imagine a world without my relatives. My Ami lost her last elderly relative yesterday, the last ‘buzurg‘ in the family. Lots of childhood memories associated with him. I am Pakistani, my father half Pakistani and half-Afghan; my mother is Pakistani. We are from Lahore. My husband is from Karachi. You can read more on my ‘About’ page, here. Best, shayma

  24. Your recipes are pretty cool, pictures speak thousand words and it looks brilliant. I was surprised to hear the surname Khanna as being Pakistani, Coz there are whole lot of Punjabis with the same surname in India, anyways just something that caught my eye.

    I am an Indian and have huge list of blogs from different parts of India coz the food variety is enormous .And in that search i thought of searching the different ways people cook in their country and thats how i made an acquaintance with your blog. Being a vegetarian i like to incorporate the non-veg items with something vegetarian and make it according to my like.

    Aloo tiki reminds of Ragda Pattice ( aloo tikki covered with some kind Channa Dal curry) which you get on the streets of MUMBAI,India — spicy, sweet and tany. Ahhhh! Wanna be in Mumbai – and during the rainy season it just makes your day.

    Wanted to know, what if you do not want to use eggs? Any suggestion for the vegetarian.

    Your blog is a good read, nostalgic reading – no matter where you are from be it India or Pakistan. Miss My Mom and my Granny – Thxs

  25. @Kala Thank you for your kind words and for visiting my blog. Where did you see the name ‘Khanna’ on my blog? I haven’t come across it here. You are right, ‘Khanna’ is an Indian surname, I have never heard anyone with this surname in Pakistan.

    Regarding the use of eggs, another writer asked me the same question, I advised her to fry them as is, without oil. Another method could be to dip in a cornstarch slurry, then in bread crumbs and shallow fry.

    I am sorry you have lost your Mom and Granny. Best wishes, shayma

  26. hi Shayma,

    Thxs for your reply.

    Finally, I understood from where I found the surname ‘Khanna’. The egomag article was written by ayesha khanna and somehow i think i mashed the two names together :)

    I sometimes do that..

    and also thank you for your suggestion on the recipes minus the egg.

    regards
    kala

  27. This post is a wonderful, heartfelt tribute to your grandmother. Being so far away when someone you love dies is extraordinarily hard. My Nyanya passed away a day before my 36th birthday, on the other side of the ocean, and I felt as if a part of my childhood and adolescence died with her.
    My mother used to make us potato croquettes from leftover mashed potatoes, and I would love to try the Pakistani version.
    BTW, would “shalwar” be the silk “pants” worn by Muslim women? In the town where I was born (Novi Pazar, Serbia) that type of clothing was called “salvare” (shal-vah-reh).

  28. shayma, i am planning to make your aloo tikki’s for an american friend of mine. i have one question though. in england buying potatoes entails a minefield of choice. any tips of which kind i should be using. would the kind that they say are good for mashing do? or do i need something slightly more robust than those?

  29. @Lana Yes, shalwar would be the harem pants type of “trousers” worn by Pakistanis. It is so interesting that it is called the same thing in Serbia. I am really interested in etymology (got it from my father), I shall look this one up.

    When our grandparents die, nothing is the same. Every time I go back to Lahore, I think of them. I am sorry to hear about your Nyanya- I can empathise. Thank you for your kind words.

    @Mehrunnisa I use white potatoes here in Toronto- they are, as you said, more robust when you mash them. I would not use the ones which are referred to as ‘baking potatoes’ as they are very starchy and may break easily when you are forming the patty. You could also use red potatoes, which is what my mum uses. Hope this helps?

  30. Rekhmina says:

    I love your blog! just read this post and now I want to eat Aloo cutlets! Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s recipe. It’s almost exactly the same as my mom’s except that she uses red potatoes and after dipping the cutlet in egg she gives it a nice coating of bread crumbs. I’ll try them your way next time. :)

  31. Wow, Shayma I love this recipe. In fact I have tried a few of your recipes and they are always a hit. I am a South African Indian and although my great grandparents were from India, we still carry alot of Indian traditions, especially the food. Reading about your grandmother, reminded me of my late grandmother who was instrumental in passing down recipes from her grandmother to me, (some have been adapted)I can identify with many of your recipes as the method and ingredients are similar to how I cook. So basically even though your roots are in Pakistan and mine are in India we can identify with one another.

  32. Salam,

    This looks simple and delicious. I usually add more spices and herbs like ginger and mustard seeds, and sometimes dried fenugreek… similar to my samosa filling. It’s great as a sandwich, not low-fat, but still great! :)

  33. Thinking of your nani (and inevitably my nani) as i read this. Will try the recipe tonight x

  34. A heart touching story and a beautiful recipe which I will add to my list to make next week x

  35. Just tried the recipe and it turned out great! Thank you for sharing it! I just made one small addition, a little bit of lemon juice, to lighten the potato a bit :)

  36. hey shayma! stumbled upon ur site and just wanted to congratulate u on such a wonderful job:) also, ull be interested to know that im from lahore and my sisters name is also shayma!..its such an unusual name that i think other than her, u are probably the only other person i know of who has this name. i see from the pic above that ur mother was in murree at some point..did she study at convent of jesus and mary murree?

  37. Hi,
    really loving your food-blog. Amazing recipes from wonderful countries! :)
    Hope there will be more to come in future!

  38. Ambreen says:

    Hey Shayma
    Your story took me back to my nani ammi’s house in rawalpindi whom we called barri ammi. It is simply fascinating how most of the readers from Pakistan share the similar childhood memories. I do wonder if our kids will ever experience that life which we had. Given most of us are overseas pakistanis and live far away from families with very limited time with them.
    I thought i will add my two cents here.
    I make potato cutlets with grated carrots, Grated capsicum(squeeze to drain water), green onion instead of white ones(it is less intense and somehow has less water content so the oil will not splutter too while frying), a bit of grated cheddar cheese(this is the magic ingredient). Try these variation, the taste will knock you out.
    For the reader who does not like egg for frying, i am taking the liberty of sharing an alternative. Use thick paste of corn flour(mixed like baisan batter for pakoras) to fry the kebabs instead. They take a bit of more oil and longer cooking time(Do not touch them with spatula till the kebab does not leave the pan itself. The cutlets will be extremely crispy. Egg can make them soggy but cornflour does not. I hope it helps :)

  39. rida khan says:

    assalam o alikum, such a wonderful recipe and heart touching story.

  40. For all those looking for a substitute for eggs, you can always dip your alu tikki in a thick batter of besan(chick pea flour).And for added crispiness, you can add a tea spoon of rice flour in the batter.I hope it helps.

  41. Thank you so much for this easy recipe! I’ve been married for 12 years and my (Tunisian) husband has not tasted alloo ki tikiyan. How interesting to meet another pakistani who has lived in Rome. We are in Rome right now due to my husband’s job. We are not too crazy about it….would rather be home in Wash. D.C. Anyways, for right now I’ll be of to go make some yummy potato patties.
    Thanks again and Happy mommyhood!
    Javairia Kenessy

  42. Saumen Sengupta says:

    I wonder which one affected me more: your reminiscence of your Nani Ami and her presence in your wonderful time in Lahore, or this delicious dish that goes around by name of Alu tikka. We, who can’t discern all that much, have the advantage to celebrate both, and let this be a total celebration in joy. Recently, I traveled to my old city of Kolkata where I grew up, and there, once again like before, I was introduced the street food of Alu tikka (with a delectable presence of garlic), which I relished immensely. This afternoon after I return home driving through snow and slit of upstate New York, I’m going to try your recipe! Thanks!

    • @Saumen Thank you for sharing your story with me – I have heard the street food in Kolkata is to-die-for. Hope you have stayed safe and warm during this winter period.

  43. Hi,
    really loving your food-blog. Amazing recipes from wonderful countries!
    Hope there will be more to come in future!

  44. So…do yo normally drink mojitos in ramadan too???

    • @Azzy Dear Azzy, Thank you for visiting my blog. My I remind you that this blog is my personal space on the internet? Kindly show respect next time you decide to make comments on my blog and reserve your religious judgments.

  45. Ms Reno Badkar says:

    I’m going to try making the potato cutlets, it seems like a very simple recipe. I usually try to avoid frying food,but I think that ready made foods are usually higher in fat,so my aunt told me and I think she’s right.My dad will be thrilled that i’m using something with the word ‘Pakistani’in it,my family are also from Pakistan-I grew up in the U.K.I do cook curry but i’m trying to experiment with different types of food.I just made pakoras recently for the first time.

  46. hello Shayma, im a pakistani living in scotland for 15 years…i just thought about making allo tikki for the first time ever..and i couldnt get through to my mother on skype as she lives in pakistan to ask her recipe for this…but your receipe here would certainly do the job well im sure, so thank you…:) i will let you know how i get on with it…

  47. Hi, thank you for the recipe. Just about to try it out. Can we freeze th tikki in preparation for Ramadan?

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