- Bute St Seafoodie
"Not everyone can be a truffle. Most of us are potatoes.
And a potato is a very good thing to be."
Massimo Bottura (2014)
Tikkis are one of the most popular street foods of India. Essentially a spiced (mashed) potato cake, in the north of India these often come with a hidden treat: a tasty little filling, often based on peas. Friend Claudette recommended a recipe by Dassana Amit on vegrecipesofindia.com and I've based this dish on that recipe.
However, here I've altered the hidden treat to be a spicy crab mixture made with brown crab meat. I initially tried this recipe with a 50:50 mix of white and brown meat but this didn't express the crab flavour as assertively as the 100% brown meat does. Of course the added benefit of using just brown meat is that the dish becomes even more economical than it already is and offers another opportunity for what is near a waste-product to shine.
I find that, in a tikki, one of the most characteristic seasonings is amchoor (dried mango powder) which imparts its sourness into the fluffy mashed potato. Chaat masala (which contains amchoor along with other spices) may also be used in some recipes in its place but failing that a few squeezes of lemon can provide the necessary sourness.
Traditionally, tikkis are served with a green chutney and a sour tamarind chutney, the former being sharp, hot and herby, the latter sweet, sour and sometimes smoky - both perfect accompaniments to the flavour of crab. Recipes for these are abundant - you'll probably find a recipe for each in almost any book of Indian cuisine. Recipes for both are available on the No Worries Curries website, but a particular favourite recipe of mine for a smoky tamarind chutney, one which has become a stalwart in my kitchen, comes from "The Cinnamon Club Cookbook" by Iqbal Wahhab and Vivek Singh and I've given a version of this recipe in the Notes.
That said, these tikkis go well with a wide range of condiments. Consider chilli sauce, a yoghurt dip, mango chutney or tomato chutney to name but a few. But I have it on good authority that tikkis are often simply served with the ubiquitous tomato ketchup!
It is not traditional for breadcrumbs to appear anywhere near the potato mixture for a tikki. However, we live in modern times and if you look around you will see many recipe writers advocating their use for the purposes of creating a particularly crispy coating - and it very much does work. I've suggested Panko breadcrumbs for their extra special talent of engendering a crisp result but I do recommend crumbling them as larger pieces have the tendency to detach from the patties when they are being fried.
The first stages in this recipe are mostly taken up by making some mashed potato. OK this mash doesn't feature butter, cream etc. but there is no reason why leftover mash shouldn't be used (provided it hasn't had strongly-flavoured additional ingredients incorporated into it). When it comes to mash I will always recommend using King Edward or Maris Piper potatoes for their particularly floury nature. However, another variety I am particularly keen on for roasties and mash is the Marfona potato, largely because, besides being as floury as Maris Pipers, those are what come in my veg box and what used to be on sale in the farmers' market. Very recently Marfonas have been replaced by Sagittas in the farmers' market and I would say these are even better than the Marfonas. The important message here, of course, is to avoid using waxy potato varieties as these become quite 'gluey' in texture when mashed.
Forming the stuffed patties does take a certain amount of time, but everything in this recipe up to and including step 4 (and including the tamarind chutney) can be done a day ahead of time.
Although these tikkis are best served straight from the frying pan, leftovers can be reheated by bringing them to room temperature and giving them another quick fry on either side which will crisp them back up again.
Ingredients (Makes 6-8 large tikkis)
500-600g potatoes (see recipe intro), peeled and cut into 2" chunks
½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp amchoor (see recipe intro)
20g Panko breadcrumbs, crumbled
10g gram (chickpea) flour
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sunflower or vegetable oil for shallow frying
For the crab stuffing:
100g brown crab meat
¼ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a pestle and mortar
½ tsp amchoor (see recipe intro)
¼ ground ginger
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped (or quantity to taste)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil the potato chunks in salted water for about 10 mins until soft then drain in a colander and leave to cool somewhat.
Meanwhile make the crab stuffing. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly, and season well. Set aside.
Mash the potatoes or pass them through a potato ricer then combine with all the remaining ingredients except the oil. Season well, especially with pepper.
Have a bowl of water ready to keep your hands wet and line a tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Take a ball of the potato mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball, and with wet hands form it into a cup shape. Spoon between an eighth and a sixth of the crab filling into the cup then form a thin disc of more potato mixture to create a lid to cover the crab filling. Again with wet hands gently press the sides of the cup upward and over the covered crab filling and seal so that the filling is enclosed. Transfer to the lined plate and repeat with the remaining potato and crab mixtures to form 6-8 tikkis. Put the tikkis in the fridge for half an hour or so to firm up.
Pour a 3mm depth of oil into a wide frying pan and turn on the heat. Line a large plate with kitchen paper. Over a medium-high heat fry the tikkis in batches for a couple minutes either side or until they have taken on a deep golden colour. Transfer the cooked tikkis to the paper-lined plate to drain off the excess oil and repeat with the remaining batches. Serve as soon as possible with lime wedges and Tamarind chutney and/or other dipping sauces and chutneys.
Tamarind chutney: Put 50g tamarind purée, 15g jagary, palm sugar or molasses sugar, 1 bay leaf, 1 black cardamom pod and 2 tbsp water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently, stirring regularly, for 15 mins, adding 1 tbsp water each time the liquid becomes thick. Turn out the heat, remove the black cardamom pod and bay leaf, then stir in ½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste), 1 tsp ground ginger, ½ tsp salt and water to achieve the desired consistency. Leave to cool and store in the fridge where it will keep for at least 1 week.
"The Cinnamon Club Cookbook", Iqbal Wahhab and Vivek Singh (2003), pp.161: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cinnamon-Club-Cookbook-Iqbal-Wahhab/dp/1904573010
"Aloo Tikki (Crispy and North Indian Style)", vegrecipesofindia.com, website accessed 7 May 2022
"Chaat Chutneys (Tamarind and Mint)", No Worries Curries, website accessed 7 May 2022