Devil’s Dung Potatoes

By Ruta Kahate

The compelling name for this next dish was inspired by the Indian spice asafoetida. It comes from a plant that, well, smells bad. It also imparts a strong flavor, rather like onion or garlic. “Devil’s dung” is another name for this odoriferous ingredient, and a little of it goes a long way. Ruta Kahate uses it here – a generous amount, no less – in place of onion and garlic and, with some other simple spices, finds it exceptionally comforting in this warm potato dish. It also resonates with her family. “These are potatoes that I've made,” she says, “for many years. In fact, my husband still talks about them, and we’ve been married forever. If he’d come in late from work or travel or something, he’d be like, ‘Oh, make those potatoes,’ so it does speak of comfort. And I mean, potatoes first of all, right? That's comfort in itself. And then, made simply like this. So, it’s very much a staple in the house.” To eat a big bowl of it for breakfast or lunch on a particularly overcast day is just the thing, she says. Since, at a certain time of year, there are plenty of days like that in Milwaukee, you may just be making Devil’s Dung Potatoes more often than you’d think.


4-6 servings

4 large russet potatoes

2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1⁄2 teaspoon asafoetida

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 cup [240 milliliters] water

1 green chile, quartered lengthwise

1 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt


Place the potatoes in a pan with water to cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, for another 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and wait until they’re cool enough to handle. Peel and cut them into 1-inch cubes.


Heat the ghee in a wok over medium heat and add the cumin seeds. When they’re done sputtering, in quick succession, add the asafoetida, turmeric and the cubed potatoes. Stir for a couple of minutes, allowing the potatoes to color a bit. Add a quarter-cup of the water and deglaze the pan, scraping up any potatoes that have stuck to the bottom of the wok. Add the remaining three-quarters of a cup of water, the chile and salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, mash a few of the potato cubes—this thickens the curry a bit—and simmer, covered, for about five minutes. Serve immediately.


Instant Pot preparation:

First, boil the potatoes in the Instant Pot. Place the potatoes with water to cover in the pot and pressure cook for 10 minutes. Quick-release the pressure, then cool, peel and cut the potatoes. Wipe out the insert and use the sauté function to proceed with the rest of the recipe.


Serving Tip: I like to serve this with grilled coriander-and-turmeric-dusted tofu squares.


From 6 Spices 60 Dishes: Indian Recipes That Are Simple, Fresh, and Big on Taste by Ruta Kahate, © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books.

Pro Tips


Turmeric is Kahate’s “secret ingredient.” Say you’re roasting vegetables: “Throw a little in it. You don't have to put in so much that everything is yellow.” But add it to whatever spices that you're already putting in, whether it’s just salt and pepper or something assertive like rosemary. “You’re not only going to make your table more vibrant, your gut will thank you.”


After living in India and California, Ruta Kahate and her family relocated to Milwaukee in 2019. In addition to running cafes in Goa, India, she operated a cooking school and taught cooking classes at venues such as Sur La Table while based on the West Coast. Kahate has hosted culinary tours to India, helping chefs and serious foodies cook and eat their way through the country. An established cookbook author, Kahate is also the owner of Ruta’s Fresh Indian Fare in Walker’s Point.

Ruta Kahate

Ruta’s Vibrant Indian Cafe

Ruta Kahate

Ruta’s Vibrant Indian Cafe

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