Q. Where does a Pierogi figure in Traditional Indian cuisine??
A. Nowhere really..
My first taste of Pierogi (actually, make that the first time I'd heard the term) was from one of those freezer offerings. the prepackaged versions apparently were a staple for my husband while in grad school. Just remove from package, microwave in a bowl of water, drain liquid & scarf down...
Pierogi (the term is plural) are basically boiled dough pockets filled with potatoes, although there are variations to be found all over Poland, eastern Europe & Central Asia where they originate. Although not as common as the ubiquitous pizza, frozen pierogis are a staple in any megamart freezer section. and yes for the most part, ovovegetarian.
It wasn't straightforward coming up with an Indian version of this. It was on a completely unrelated recipe testing session that gave rise to this dish.
I was trying out a recipe from the latest book in my collection, 'cooking @ home with pedhatha, specifically the 'ullipaya pachadi' (onion relish), when my 5 yr old came rushing into the kitchen asking if I was making masala dosai! The reason was that while the recipe called for tempering with a sprig of curry leaves before sauteeing the onions, I ended up adding curry leaves & cilantro much later along with onions & ginger. The end result was a fragrant aroma reminescent of the traditional potato masala served inside masala dosai & with poorie bhaji. The kid had just given me the inspiration for this weeks offering as well as reminded me how taste variations may be created simply by altering the sequence of adding seasoning!
I have included the recipe for the Onion chutney with my variation in the technique. (Recipe credit: Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain)
For the pierogi, you need:
1 large potato boiled, peeled & mashed
1-2 tbsp Onion chutney (recipe given below)
12-15 round wonton wrappers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup (8 oz) water
& yes, a good non stick skillet.
In a bowl, combine the chutney and mashed potato, adjusting the amount of chutney as per your personal taste. Set aside.
Place a teaspoon of potato mixture onto the center of a wonton wrapper.
Moisten the edges and fold over.
With fingertips dipped in water, pinch along the edges of the closed dough pocket & create about 4-5 folds as shown.
Repeat with remaining wonton wrappers and set aside.
In a non stick skillet, (this is one dish I will not use a regular pan) heat oil till smoking hot. On medium heat, place the pierogi in the skillet. Swirl to ensure even distribution of the oil. Leave to brown for about a minute. Flip over & brown the other side. (this browning caramelizes & crisps up part of the wonton wrapper & also blends the flavors in the filling)
Increase the heat to high and add 1/4 cup (~ 2 fl oz) of water.
Immediately cover the skillet & resist any temptation to peep! when the escaping steam appears to have subsided, open the lid & let the water evaporate completely (Remember the steam is what cooks the covering dough and it has to completely envelope the pierogi)
Serve hot with a pat of salted butter & a wedge of lemon.
For a description of what this dish tastes like, it reminded me of eating poorie bhaji. The browned part of the wonton gives it the nutty aroma that characterizes crisp poories, while the blended filling was reminiscent of the golden potato subzee that is often served with poori, redolent with the smell of curry leaves & onion. The novel mouth feel component is the chewiness of the steamed dough, which is akin to the texture of a ravioli
Onion chutney (Recipe adapted from 'Cooking @ home with Pedhatha' by Jigyasa Giri & Pratibha Jain)
2 medium onions diced
1 inch piece ginger root, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1-2 tbsp tamarind pulp (adjust as per taste)
Salt to taste
For the tempering:
1 tsp mustard seeds,
1 tbsp urad dal
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 red chillies broken
2 green chillies cut into 2-3 pieces
6-8 stalks cilantro, leaves & stems
10-12 curry leaves torn
A pinch of asafetida powder
In a skillet, heat the oil and add the mustard & urad dal. when the mustard sputters & the dal begins to turn golden brown, add the fenugreek seed to brown as well. Lower the flame and add the chillies and asafetida, followed by onion ,ginger, cilantro & curry leaves. Lower the heat and saute till the onions turn translucent and the green leaves have wilted. add salt & tamarind pulp and blend in a food processor till smooth.
This chutney may also be served as an accompaniment to other South Indian classics like Idli & Dosai.