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Tikkis or Tiny Taters? — Lord Krsna’s Cuisine

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Tikkis or Tiny Taters?

Store-bought food is small potatoes when you can cook at home for Krsna with devotion.

by Visakha-devi dasi

1982-12-05

Suppose you’ve decided to serve potatoes with your supper tonight. What kind of potatoes will you serve? There are dozens of choices. You could, for instance, go to the neighborhood supermarket and for 79 cents get a one-pound package of Bird’s-Eye Tiny Taters. Then all you’d have to do is spread the frozen, pre-fried potatoes on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes (stirring once after 7 minutes). Or, for 19 cents, you could get a pound of fresh potatoes instead and make tikkis (pronounced “teekees”), pan-fried potato patties.

Just as you see cooks making pizzas in pizza-parlor windows, if you ever go to India or even to a quaint Indian restaurant in a Western city you’ll probably see a cook making tikkis. He’ll make them just as cooks before him have made them for centuries. First he’ll spice and shape a two-inch round potato patty. Then he’ll place the patty near the center of a large, flat, heavy iron griddle and let it cook ever-so-slowly while he shapes more. When the frying tikki forms a paper-thin brown crust on the bottom, he’ll turn it over so a crust forms on the other side. Finally, he’ll scoot it to the edge of the griddle, where it will stay thoroughly soft and warm—a delightful addition to any supper.

It’s not difficult to make tikkis at home, and if you think of Lord Krsna while you’re making them and offer them to Him when they’re done, He will surely appreciate your sincere endeavor, and so will your family. (The Bird’s-Eye people, of course, may not.)

No doubt shaping and frying tikkis is going to take you more time than baking what’s inside some frozen package. But at least you won’t have to eat the disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate that the frozen food manufacturers add to preserve the color of their product. You also won’t be eating their hydrogenated soybean or palm oil and a few other curious ingredients.

What you will get from eating fresh cooked potatoes is quite amazing. After years of scorn and neglect, the common potato today is winning plaudits for being an excellent source of nutrition. Six ounces will give you almost half the vitamin C you need each day, and potato protein contains all the amino acids essential to nutrition. Potatoes provide thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, iron, calcium, and phosphorous—all for only one hundred calories (and no fat). The potato is also one of the cheapest vegetables available; it’s a staple for the needy and, in the case of tikkis, a delicacy for the gourmet.

Tikkis are just one of the options you have in preparing fresh potatoes. For tikkis, first you mash the potatoes, but you can also cook potatoes whole or shred, cube, slice, or dice them. Tikkis are pan-fried, but you can also bake, steam, saute, or stew potatoes. You can stuff them. You can combine them with one—or more—of fifty other vegetables. You can spice them so they’re hot, pungent, salty, bitter, sour, or slightly sweet. You can cook them with grains like rice or semolina. You can garnish them with milk products like butter, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream. And you can serve them along with any number of other foods. That’s just a few of the alternatives you have for just one vegetable! Devotees are not exaggerating when they say that an expert cook can prepare hundreds of thousands of dishes without using meat, fish, or eggs. And, like tikkis, each dish is both tasty and nutritious.

If you’re a Westerner, chances are you’ve eaten meat all your life and you think it’s necessary—if not for its protein (amply available from nonmeat sources), then at least for its taste. But if you try cooking and eating a varied vegetarian diet—dishes prepared with fresh vegetables, whole grains, milk products, and fruits—I’m sure you’ll find what we’ve found: nonvegetarian food isn’t even missed.

What’s more, if you prepare pure vegetarian dishes and offer them to Krsna, you’ll find that your spiritual life begins to blossom, and along with it your peaceful life. As Srila Prabhupada explains in his purports to the Srimad-Bhagavatam: “The human being is meant for self-realization, and for that purpose he is not to eat anything which is not first offered to the Lord. The Lord accepts from His devotee all kinds of food preparations made of vegetables, fruits, milk products, and grains, and after the Lord accepts the food the devotee can partake of the prasadam, by which all suffering in the struggle for existence will be gradually mitigated. The spiritual regulative principles do not allow a man to slaughter weaker animals on one side and teach peaceful coexistence on the other. If man does not allow the animals peaceful coexistence, how can he expect peaceful coexistence in human society?”

Of course, vegetarian food that’s been processed, cooked, frozen, packaged, stored, and shipped is still vegetarian. But whether it will be satisfying to Lord Krsna and to you is another question. So between tikkis and Tiny Taters, we resoundingly vote for tikkis. Try them and see what you think.

(Recipes by Yamuna-devi dasi)

Basic Pan-Fried Mashed-Potato Patties

(Aloo Tikki)

One of the best things about tikkis is that you can cook them without giving them much attention (just one quick turn every fifteen or twenty minutes will do), so they make for truly effortless light meals. But they’re also ideal for feast-sized dinners, since they give you lots of time to make other dishes.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 patties 2 ½ inches across

1 pound new potatoes suitable for boiling
2 1/3 to 2 ½ tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) (If you don’t have any ghee, you’ll need 1 to 1 ½ teaspoons vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons butter)
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
scant 1 ¼ teaspoon black or white pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves, minced fine
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons fresh hot green chilies, seeded and minced very fine or pureed
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, peeled and minced very fine
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons dry-roasted chickpea flour or sifted whole-wheat flour

1. Boil the potatoes until they’re tender and then peel them. While the potatoes are still warm, force them through a potato ricer or a coarse sieve to produce a smooth mass of mashed potatoes. Cool the potatoes to room temperature and add 2 tablespoons of ghee or butter and then the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Then knead the potatoes until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

2. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the ghee or oil) and knead until they’re mixed well. Divide the mashed potatoes into 8 balls of equal size and then shape each ball into a flat, round patty about 2¼ inches across and ½ inch thick.

3. Brush a well-seasoned heavy iron griddle or a nonstick finished 10- to 12-inch frying pan with just enough ghee or vegetable oil to prevent the potato patties from sticking. Turn the flame down as low as possible and cook the tikkis about twenty minutes on each side, or until a thick, crisp, golden-brown crust forms. Hasty cooking or too much ghee or oil will cause the delicate patties to break apart. Offer the tikkis to Krsna when they’re still hot, with a sprinkle of savory tamarind chutney or a dob of zesty tomato sauce, seasoned yogurt, or fresh green coriander-mint chutney.

Horseradish Variation

Prepare as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder. Instead, add 1 to 2 teaspoons horseradish root that has been pureed or grated fine.

Nut Variation

Prepare as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder and the minced ginger and chilies. Instead, add ¼ teaspoon powdered red chilies and 3 tablespoons toasted cashews, almonds, or peanuts that have been chopped fine.

Tomato Variation

Prepare tikkis as directed above, but omit the turmeric powder. Instead, add 1 teaspoon dry-roasted cumin seeds that have been coarsely crushed and 1 small firm ripe tomato, diced fine.

Mashed-Potato Patties Stuffed with Peas

(Aloo-Mattar Tikki)

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 10 potato patties

Ingredients for the potato pastry:

1 pound new potatoes suitable for boiling
scant 1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black or white pepper
1 tablespoon butter or ghee

Ingredients for the pea stuffing:

½ tablespoon ghee or vegetable oil
½ tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and minced fine
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons fresh hot green chilies, seeded and minced fine
¼ teaspoon asafetida powder
¾ cup peas
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garam masala (available at Indian groceries)
1 teaspoon dry-roasted cumin seeds, crushed coarse
½ teaspoon sugar or other sweetener
1 teaspoon lemon juice a small bowl of semolina
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons ghee or vegetable oil

1. Prepare the potato pastry as directed in

Step 1 of the previous recipe.

2. Steam the peas until they’re tender. Then place them in a small bowl and mash them into a coarse wet pulp. Over a medium-high flame, heat ½ tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil in a small saucepan until a drop of water flicked into the pan sputters instantly. Add the ginger root, chilies, and asafetida to the ghee or oil and fry until brown.

3. Stir in the peas, salt, garam masala, cumin seeds, and sugar, and cook until dry. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice. Now cool the spicy mashed peas and shape into 10 equal portions.

4. Divide the potato pastry into 10 patties of equal size. Place a portion of mashed peas into the center of each patty and then fold the edges together so that the peas are in the center of the potato casing. Now gently flatten the patties so they’re each 2 ½ inches across.

5. Put a teaspoon of ghee or oil into a 12-inch heavy cast-iron pancake griddle or frying pan and heat over a low flame for 2 minutes. Carefully place the patties on the griddle or pan and very slowly brown them on both sides until they form a golden-brown crust (about 15 minutes per side). Offer the tikkis to Krsna hot, with a twist of lemon or lime or a dab of fresh chutney.

Savory Mashed-Yam Patties

(Suran Tikki)

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 patties 2 ½ inches across

1 pound yams
2 tablespoons cashews or peanuts, toasted and chopped fine
2 tablespoons dry coconut, pulverized fine
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons fresh ginger root, minced fine
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons hot green chilies, minced fine
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
½ teaspoon cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 tablespoons fresh coriander or parsley leaves
¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne
½ teaspoon sugar or other sweetener
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dry-roasted chickpea flour
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons ghee or vegetable oil

1. Peel the yams and steam until tender. Mash them and mix in the remaining ingredients, except for the ghee or oil. Knead the yams until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed in and the yams are smooth. Now shape into eight round patties of equal size.

2. Put the ghee or oil in a heavy 12-inch cast-iron griddle or frying pan and heat over a low flame for about 2 ½ minutes. Brown the patties on each side until they form a nut-brown, slightly crisp crust. Serve the tikkis to Krsna while they’re still warm, with a dab of fresh moist chutney or wedges of lemon or lime.

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