Stovetop: Punjabi Aloo Gobi

September 13, 2023

Stovetop: Punjabi Aloo Gobi

Cauliflower is the new 'it' vegetable. It's everywhere on restaurant menus. People are talking about it the way they used to talk about Brussels sprouts and kale. I'm glad folks have caught onto something we in the Indian community have always known - cauliflower when made correctly - is mind blowing. Our most iconic dish is Aloo Gobi, which combines Aloo (potatoes) with gobi (cauliflower) and spices to make a dish that is oddly addictive. But, there are a few tricks you'll need to keep in mind to really achieve success with this dish at home. I say this, because I've had really bad aloo gobi, and it's typically on a mainstream menu that tries to get it right but just doesn't have an understanding of what this type of dish is truly about.

It's not a curry, or gravy. It's a sabzi, dishes in Indian cuisine that are dry and cooked just through. Typically vegetables, these dishes can encompass anything from okra to eggplant, and even watermelon rind! The last one was made famous in our family by my grandmother on my father's side. That story and recipe is for another time, but what you want to keep in mind here is that these dishes are very dry and rely on the natural moisture in the vegetable itself. The art in making them perfectly is knowing just how much water to add - and mind you it's never as much as you think it will be - a few tablespoons at the most. The other key to keep in mind is that these vegetable dishes are cooked through - but not cooked so much that they are soggy. They are cooked on a high level of heat without a lid at first, but then the heat is lowered and the pan is covered completely to help the ingredients release water and cook just through. It's never more than 10 - 13 minutes. Cook it any less and it will feel undercooked, but any more and it feels overdone and falls apart. There's an art to this. Get it right and you'll never want to eat anything else rolled up in a roti, kissed with ghee, and accompanied by a crunch slice of raw onion.  

If you want to make this recipe but don't want to shop for a ton of spices, consider our newest offering - spice kits! Our one and done kits measure out the exact spices you need for the recipe below. You purchase the fresh ingredients, and the rest is easy as pie! Click here to purchase. 

Stovetop: Punjabi Aloo Gobi
Makes 4 cups

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
1 pinch hing
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon dried kasoor methi (dried fenugreek leaves), hand-crushed
1 medium yellow or red onion, roughly chopped 
2 heaping tablespoons grated or minced ginger
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced
1-6 fresh Thai or serrano chiles, stems removed and thinly sliced
1 medium Russet potato, roughly chopped (no need to peel), submerged in water    
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets (5 cups)
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons coriander powder
2 teaspoons red chile powder
1 tablespoon salt

1. Over medium-high heat, warm the oil or ghee in a heavy-bottomed 4- or 6-quart saute pan. Add the hing, cumin seeds, turmeric, and methi. Cook for 40 seconds until the seeds sizzle and turn reddish-brown. 

2. Add the onion. Stir and cook for 2 minutes until slightly brown. Add the ginger, garlic, and fresh chiles and cook, stirring occasionally for 40 seconds. Add the drained potato and cook for 1 minute. The chop on the onion and potatoes should be large and rough. 

3. Add the peas and cook for 1 minute. Stir, scraping the bottom. The moisture from the peas will start to deglaze the pan.  

4. Add the cauliflower, garam masala, coriander powder, red chile, and salt. Stir. Cook for 3 minutes. 

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan completely, and cook for 13 minutes, stirring once in between. Turn the heat off and let the pan sit covered on the same burner for another 2-5 minutes. Transfer the aloo gobi to a bowl and serve with rice or Indian bread like roti or naan. 

Watch me make it!  

Anupy's Cooking Notes: 

  • I made this dish a half dozen times to really figure out the moisture required.  For a true Punjabi version of this dish, it should be very very dry. I started by adding a tablespoon of water and even that felt like too much, so I took the water out completely and really watched to see if the pan would deglaze from the moisture of the soaking potato, the frozen peas, and the natural moisture in the cauliflower. It did. Trust me!
  • The size of the cauliflower versus the potato matters. Because cauliflower will take less time to cook, make the florets about twice the size of the potato. Also note that the potato goes in first so that it gets a head start on cooking because it takes slightly longer to soften. You don't want mushy cauliflower. Some recipes call for cooking the potato ahead of time. We never do that for this dish - it's unnecessary if you follow the cooking order above. 
  • I struggled with the amount of peas to add. I stuck with 1/4 versus 1/3 because the extra meant extra water. And even the small amount of extra water gave me a touch extra moisture that my Punjabi sensibilities could not tolerate. 
  • Methi is the magic in this dish. I started by adding cilantro in the end, but that felt a little lacking. The methi was the true game changer. 
  • Methi in the beginning or in the end? My cousin Sangita was visiting from England when I was testing and she suggested adding it to the beginning. It added just enough difference that I'm sticking with it. Thanks Sang! If you want to add it in the end you can do that as well - just before turning off the burner in the second part of step 5. 
  • Note how I say 'cover the pan completely' in step 5. Some dishes like rice require leaving the lid slightly ajar to release steam. Not these sabzis. Place the lid flat and turn the heat down very low. You are basically cooking the veggies in their own natural steam as you draw out the moisture from the vegetables that are cooking. 
  • Deglaze the pan with wine? Some of you have asked if you should use wine to deglaze. We do not traditionally, but you can if you would like to try a different flavor profile. Honestly, this dish is so good as is why mess with it says this Punjabi girl. And again, the natural moisture from the veggies will do all the deglazing you'll need. 


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Indian As Apple Pie Recipes

Diwali: No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Sweet Spicy Crunch Bar
Diwali: No-Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Sweet Spicy Crunch Bar

September 28, 2023

Continue Reading

Zoom Cooking Class: Chana Masala
Zoom Cooking Class: Chana Masala

September 18, 2023

Continue Reading

Amazing Meals and Instant Pot Indian Start with Prep: Mise en Place and Beyond
Amazing Meals and Instant Pot Indian Start with Prep: Mise en Place and Beyond

August 31, 2023

Continue Reading