Thursday, August 5, 2010

So THAT'S why it's always 2 bucks more.

There was no immediate need for me to try my hand at Malai Kofta, since we have some really great Indian joints in CLT. Nevertheless, I made a big batch yesterday and discovered a few things:

Time intensive. Just the dumplings take an hour to prepare, pre-fry.

Cranky materials. Oil has to be a very specific temp and small batches are KEY, otherwise you end up with exploded koftas. Which, unfortunately, aren't very nummy.

Not healthy. In the slightest.

But delicious! Really, really good. I'll admit that I've had better than the batch described below - prepared by other, more experienced Kofta cooks. My theory is that at, say, Woodlands, they make a batch a week and freeze the dumplings ahead of time, and just fry them to order. Still, if you're in the mood to try this most-challenging of Indian dishes, give it a whirl - you'll understand why it's always the most expensive choice on ze menu.

Malai Kofta (Cheese and Vegetable Dumplings in Creamy Tomato Sauce)
serves 4-6, or about 24 dumplings

I went tastespottinghunting and found this extremely detailed recipe. I followed the techniques for the koftas but shortened the sauce instructions. Check it.

For the dumplings:
3 small-medium potatoes, boiled and peeled
14 oz paneer cheese, grated
1/4 cup cornstarch
Salt to taste - about a teaspoon, based on how salty your paneer is
2 tablespoons curry powder of your choice - I used some delicious Garam Masala 
1 carrot, grated, blanched
1 cup nuts (I used cashews and almonds) soaked in hot water
1/2 cup raisins
Splash cream
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small knob fresh garlic, grated

Mash the 'taters until smooth, adding salt, pepper, and curry powder. Grate your cheese into another bowl, toss with cornstarch. Mix potatoes and cheese. Set aside.

Toss carrot, nuts, raisins, cilantro, garlic and ginger with a little cream in another bowl. Throw it in a food processor or blender for a few pulses - you want the stuffing to be fine mince.

Grab a slightly-smaller-than-a-golfball sized hunk of potato, and press it into your cupped hand, forming a bowl shape. Press a teaspoon or so of stuffing into the center and carefully close your hand a bit, smoothing the potato around the filling until totally surrounded and the dumpling is "closed". Gently roll the ball in your hand until the surface is smooth. Set aside on a plate until ready to fry. Make the rest.

Heat your oil until hot! and fry your koftas, 6 or so at a time. This is important - they must be able to move freely in the oil without touching each other. If they do, they tear themselves apart (which happened to me, luckily on my last, toss-em-all-in-there batch). You want a dark exterior - this'll take 4-6 minutes to achieve. Carefully remove to paper towels to drain.

Now for the sauce!

Since it's tomato season, I went the extra mile and peeled some fresh garden tomatoes. This is not essential - you could easy use canned 'maters instead.

4 cups fresh tomato puree from 5 medium 'maters
4 cloves garlic
1 small knob ginger, grated
1 stick cinammon
4 black cardamom pods
4-6 curry leaves
1 tablespoon powdered fenugreek
3 tablespoons ghee
Masala powder to taste (I used a tablespoon or so)
2 bird's eye chilis, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed
Salt to taste (about 2 tsp here)
1 cup heavy cream
Milk, to thin and serve

Melt your ghee in a wide saucepan and add your garlic, ginger, fenugreek and masala. Fry until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add tomato puree, cinnamon and cardamom pods, salt, and curry leaves, stir well, and cover. Simmer the sauce for about 20 minutes. Add your cream and a little milk (you want enough sauce to cover your dumplings), stir and remove cardamom and cinnamon stick. Carefully place your dumplings in the sauce and simmer 5 minutes more.

Serve with Basmati rice. Garnish with chopped chilis and cilantro, if you so desire.


  1. Looks delicious! Thank you for the mention.

  2. My pleasure! Thanks for making such a process-heavy recipe seem accessible. Gave me a new appreciation of the dish!