Garam Masala Tuesdays: Station wale Aloo

by Shumaila


While growing up, that’s the mode we used when traveling long distances on vacation or postings with parents. Or when going on college trips with friends.

As we grew older and air travel became more economically viable, train journeys became obsolete.

But I miss them. Sometimes. Well some parts of it atleast.

Going to the toilets was always a problem. So, I don’t miss that. Indian Railways’ toilets are awful and something that should NEVER be discussed on a food blog. So I will just end that topic here.

I also don’t miss the oggling, desperate and mostly frustrated men that would travel in trains, staring at girls traveling alone. That was scary and one reason why I hated traveling alone besides the fact that I could never get sleep at night as I had to be extra cautious about my luggage.

But, what I do miss is how you can walk as much as you want during the entire journey- no seat belts, no restrictions. And in long distance journeys you can stretch your legs on the berth and sleep properly, unlike plane journeys where you just keep adjusting to find a perfect sleep position only to give up eventually.

I also miss how you can pack and take your food own food on board, and not have to depend on the lousy food that airlines carry. Or even better, wait for a big station to come, where vendors come to you to sell hot deep fried onion fritters (pakodas), steamed rice dumplings in spicy lentils curry (idli sambhar), aloo poori (fried bread with potato curry) and hot masala chai tea. Heaven.

Of course when I traveled alone I had strict instructions to not take anything sold or offered by a stranger. There had been cases of people putting sleeping pills in food and giving it to unsuspecting travelers, so that when the person falls asleep they can be robbed. That was scary too.

A few GMTs back I had shared a dry cumin-potato dish that is a generally preferred traveling dish especially on train journeys. While the dry potato dish I shared a while back is generally carried from home, this curry and slightly wetter dish that I am sharing today is the preferred meal to buy from vendors on railway stations. With a serving of some deep fried pooris. Of course.

Station Wale Aloo.

Potatoes and tomatoes are a classically loved combination.

Imagine french fries and ketchup.Tasty.

Now imagine french fries and a really spicy sauce. Turn the picture of the sauce to a curry. A really spicy curry. Mouth watering.

Imagine that with some deep fried Indian bread. Pure bliss.

Phonetic lesson No.1: Pronouncing the name of the dish

To correctly pronounce this dish, pronounce station the way you do (with an Indian accent. Obviously.) “Wale” won’t be pronounced as the country Wales. The “a” is accentuated the way you say “aaah” and le pronounced as “lay”. So wale= w-aaa-lay. (I really should learn those phonetic symbols. Really should!). And aloo as ” aaa-loo” (loo like the toilet). And loosely translated “station wale aloo” means potatoes cooked the way you find on railway stations.

This dish is more popularly known as tari wale aloo. Tari (or how you would say Terry, kind of) means curry. So loosely translated tari wale aloo mean potatoes in curry.

I served the potatoes with some pooris. I have not included a recipe for pooris on this post, but have provided the link to the post where you can find the recipe.

I also made a kind of salad to accompany the aloo-poori.

The salad, called Kachumbar is a fairly common addition to Indian meals. It is a mix of finely chopped fresh vegetables served as a side of salad.

Phonetic lesson no.2: Pronouncing Kachumbar

The Kach in kachumbar is pronounced the same way clutch is pronounced but without an L. The u in um is pronounced slightly like oo. The bar is not pronounced like bar but like the bur in burro. So, say it with me- cutch-oom-bur.

In Hindi, Kacha means ‘Raw or uncooked’. Kachumbar is literally small tiny pieces of raw vegetables. Its kind of like a Mexican Salsa with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, and Cilantro.

Kachumbar is such an easy and tasty salad and can be put together in next to no time. It is a great complement to spicy Indian dishes, except if you like to torture yourself and spice this up too. Kachumbar tastes delicious when served as a chunky ‘dip’ with freshly roasted or fried poppadums! Or with some poori aloo, like I did.


Serves 4


  • 3 potatoes
  • pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp Oil
  • 1 1/4 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (for garnish)
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • salt, to taste


  1. Peel the potato skin and cut the potato up into small 1-1 1/2 inch cubes. Keep in a bowl filled with cold water till ready to use.
  2. In a pressure cooker, heat some oil.
  3. When the oil is hot, add in the hing/asafoetida and the cumin seeds. let sizzle for a few seconds.
  4. Add in the chopped tomatoes. Cook well for a few minutes, till the oil separates.
  5. Add in the red chilli powder and turmeric powder. And cook for another 30 seconds.
  6. Put in the chopped potatoes, and saute with the tomato mixture for a few minutes, browning them a little.
  7. Add in water and salt, to taste. Pressure cook on medium-high heat for four whistles. Lower flame and keep on low for 5 minutes and then remove from heat.
  8. If not using a pressure cooker, then cook in a large saucepan till the potatoes are tender and can be mashed a little.
  9. Once the pressure has dropped, open the cooker and mash the potatoes a little, to thicken the gravy. Check seasoning and garnish with some fresh cilantro/coriander leaves.

For the Kachumbar:

Chop up cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and some green chillies (if you like) into small pieces. Mix them all up with some salt, lemon juice, roasted cumin powder and some mint.

For the pooris, check this recipe.