Shakarkandi Chokha| Purple Sweet Potato Mash

I love my food colourful and flavourful, the natural way! This Shakarkandi Chokha is exactly that – appealingly colourful and full of flavour.

When I received some purple sweet potatoes from Spudnik Farms in my weekly vegetable subscription box recently, I knew I had to make something that would bring out their gorgeous natural colour. I ended up using them to make chokha, inspired by the Bihari Aloo Chokha. It tasted lovely, just as pretty as it looked. The colour was simply brilliant, and it made for a wonderful accompaniment to the simple dal and rice I served it with.

Just look at that colour, will you?

Shakarkandi Chokha? Whatever is that?

Shakarkandi Chokha is a very flavourful mash made using sweet potatoes (‘shakarkand‘ or ‘shakarkandi‘ in Hindi), North Indian style. It is a spin on the traditional Aloo Chokha, a Bihari favourite, which is made with potatoes.

A note on the ingredients used

Purple sweet potatoes are the main ingredient in this dish. They possess a high level of anthocyanins, which help in boosting the immune system. They are also rich in several vitamins and minerals, making them a healthier alternative to potatoes. The earthy flavour of purple sweet potatoes goes beautifully in a number of foods.

On that note, you might also want to check out this Indian-style burger I made with a purple sweet potato patty. This Gujarati Shakkariya Nu Shaak is made using orange sweet potatoes, but can just as easily be made with purple ones.

In the chokha, I have used ginger and green chillies to spice up the sweet potatoes, and lemon juice for sourness. A finely chopped raw onion and mustard oil is added in to infuse the dish with a rustic flavour.

The piquant taste of mustard oil, the sourness of lemon and the spicy green chillies blend beautifully with the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes. All in all, Shakarkandi Chokha a riot of flavours!

How to make Shakarkandi Chokha

Ingredients (serves 4):

1. 5 small purple sweet potatoes

2. Salt to taste

3. 2 green chillies

4. A 1-inch piece of ginger

5. 1 tablespoon mustard oil

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. 2 pinches of asafoetida

8. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

9. 1 small onion

10. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Below top right: Step 3, Bottom right and left: Steps 4 and 5

1. Wash clean 5 small purple sweet potatoes, removing all traces of dirt from them.

2. Chop the sweet potatoes into large pieces.

3. Take the sweet potato pieces in a small pressure cooker. Add in enough water to cover them completely. Allow 2 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure release naturally.

4. When the pressure has completely gone down, drain out the water from the sweet potatoes. Let them cool down completely.

5. When fully cool, peel the sweet potatoes and mash roughly.

Top left and right: Step 6, Centre left and right: Steps 7 and 8, Bottom left and right: Steps 9 and 10

6. Remove the tops of the green chillies and chop them roughly. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Grind the green chillies and ginger to a paste in a small mixer jar, using a little water. Add this to the mashed sweet potatoes.

7. Add salt to taste.

8. Heat the mustard oil in a small tempering pan. Add the mustard seeds and allow them to sputter, then switch off gas and add 2 pinches of asafoetida. Let it stay in for a few seconds. Now, add this tempering to the sweet potato mash.

9. Add in lemon juice.

10. Peel the onion and chop finely. Add this to the sweet potato mash, along with the finely chopped fresh coriander. Mix everything well.
Your Shakarkandi Chokha is ready. Serve with rotis, parathas or dal-rice.

Is this recipe gluten-free and vegan?

This is a completely vegetarian recipe, and one that is vegan too. It is perfectly suited to someone following a plant-based diet.

Due to the addition of asafoetida, this recipe is not gluten-free. Skip the asafoetida if you want to make the dish gluten-free. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. If you cannot get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, you can use orange-fleshed ones. The more commonly available ones with white flesh are slightly tougher to cook and mash, so they might not be a great substitute.

2. If you do not like the pungency of mustard oil, you may use any other variety of oil instead. However, mustard oil is what is traditionally used in chokha.

3. Do not discard the water used to cook the sweet potatoes. You can use it to make soup or knead roti dough.

4. Do not overcook the sweet potatoes. 2 whistles in the pressure cooker are enough to cook them through, without making them overly mushy.

5. You can even roast the sweet potatoes on an open fire, then peel and mash them to make the Shakarkandi Chokha. This infuses them with a lovely smoky flavour. Pressure-cooking renders the process easier and faster.

6. Roasted garlic and tomatoes can be added to the chokha too. However, I have skipped them, here, as I wanted to keep the dish really basic.

7. The onion can also be fire-roasted before using it in the chokha. I have kept it raw, which is also a method traditionally followed.

8. Adjust the quantity of salt, green chillies and lemon juice as per personal taste preferences.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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