Monday, July 8, 2013

A Fryer's Siren Song- Crisp Fried Arbi

It's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Then why am I in the mood to fry? You know what they say about mad dogs and Englishmen? I guess the same can apply to me. I really am in the mood to eat fried arbi. Arbi you ask??? What is that? The root of the colocasia plant I say!!! Another tater of sorts. And I do love taters. Fried arbi has a big fan following in this home. But let's start with arbi 101. This root goes by many names. Yautia in Spanish. Arbi in Hindi. Alu in Marathi. Taro in Hawaii. Colocasia as it is botanically called, is rather popular in India. Almost every Indian state has a name for it, too many to list. The roots of course are edible, and so are the leaves. Those you have to clean carefully as they have an itchy element in the stems. I cook them down like collard greens, that means cooked to death. They are also stuffed, rolled, steamed and sauted. These little rolls are called patvad in Maharashtra or patra in Gujarat. Both equally delicious. A subject for another day. Lets get to the root of my temptation!

Colocacia roots are plentiful in Asian, Indian and Spanish grocery stores. You keep them in a dark, cool ventilated spot. I usually start by boiling them. Once boiled, they keep for a few days in the fridge. I make a subji or stir fry that goes well with dal or roti. If you have had the much reviled poi, you might have an insight into its mushy texture. The Hawaiians boil the life out of these roots and mash it into a paste. I don't boil them that long so mine have a little tooth to their bites. This is the Sindhi version called Arbi Tuk aka double fried delight.

Fried Arbi
Makes 4 generous servings

4 pieces of Arbi or Colocasia root
Canola oil for deep frying
2 tablespoons Chile powder
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Put the roots into a saucepan, cover with water and place on heat. 

Boil on a medium flame for 10 to 15 minutes. Pierce the roots with a knife to see if they are done. If the knife slips in easily they are ready. I give you a range of times as it depends on the size of the roots. Slim ones cook faster. Fat ones take longer.

Remove from water and cool.

Make a small slit with a knife. The skin should slip off. You might have to pare off stubborn bits.

Let the roots cool completely before you cut them. Half hour in the fridge is perfect.

Mix the chile powder and salt in a shallow bowl. It seems an excessive amount but the slices need the punch.

Heat canola oil in a kadhai or wok or a deep sided saucepan or a deep fat fryer. Your pick!

Cut the roots 1/2 inch thick. 

Test the oil but dropping in a sliver of a root. It should spring right back up to the surface and sizzle.

Gently add the slices to hot oil. Do not crowd the slices so do four or five at a time.

Let then fry for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium flame. You want them to turn a pale gold color.

Remove them with spider or slotted spoon on to paper towels. 

Take one slice and place it in a tostones smasher.

If you don't have one then gently press a small plate on to the slice. You want to smash it just a bit. 


Return the smooshed slices back for a second fry, this time raising the flame to medium high. You want the slices to crisp up fast. Fry them for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Take the slices out of the oil and once again drain them on paper towels. 

Sprinkle the slices liberally on  both sides with the chile powder/salt mixture. The powders should adhere to both sides. So press the mixture onto slices. 

They taste best hot, but room temperature is ok too. 


Smooshing and frying the slices twice gives the slices a crispy outer crust and a creamy interior.

Unlike potatoes, arbi has a rougher thicker skin. Once boiled the skin comes off very easily.

You could make the same recipe using potatoes too. 

I use chile and salt very liberally. You could definitely tone it down to your taste. The roots on their own are rather bland so it needs that spicy salty kick.

Frying and all that salt!!!! I forget all the cholesterol hype for this evening. I feel a little masochist. Then I could also be that spoiled brat who gets whatever she wants. Hey, the frying pan is usually relegated to the back of the cupboard. Today I answered its siren song. Tomorrow it's back to salad!