I had just arrived in Dhaka when I was offered chotpoti fukcha for the first time, and it was followed by a hasty warning by my new friends. "This is the most delicious street food in all of Bangladesh, but maybe you shouldn't eat it." WHAT?! How can you lead with that and tell me I can't eat it?! Though my American [read: weak] stomach potentially could not handle the bacteria or spice, I went for it. The savory egginess of black salt and spices in the chotpoti (chickpea veg mix), coupled with the tang of tamarind sauce and crunch of the fukcha (fried crispy dough pockets)... well, I didn't really care if I paid for it later (I didn't, thank goodness). You can make chotpoti on it's own, or pair with fukcha for a complete treat.
1 c. flour
⅓ c. cornmeal (not super fine, use semolina grain)
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ c. water, lukewarm
Oil for frying
Chotpoti Masala (spice mix)
[more than you need for this recipe]
6 whole dried red chilis (I used Thai chilis)
2 ½ tbs. Cumin, whole
2 tbs. Coriander, whole
¾ tbs. Brown mustard seed
½ tbs. Fennel
½ tbs. Nigella seeds (or sesame seeds)
½ tsp. Fenugreek
¼ tsp. Cloves
½ tsp. Black pepper
2 tbs. Black salt
1 tbs. tamarind puree (I used Glory Bee, but if you have thicker paste that works too!)
½ c. water
½ tsp. salt
1 tbs. white sugar
½ serrano pepper, minced
½ tsp. chotpoti masala
Grated rind of ½ lemon
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas*
3-4 medium yukon gold potatoes
3 ½ c. water
¾ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chili flakes
¼ c. red onion, finely diced
¼ c. cilantro, chopped
½ serrano, minced
½ cucumber, finely diced
1 ½ tbs. chotpoti masala (recipe above)
2 ½ tbs. tamarind sauce
*This recipe is traditionally made with white peas called vatana, but I could not find those in any grocery store in our town. These aren't navy beans or cannellini beans, they are a specific bean that looks almost like a chickpea (see here). If you do find them, definitely use them instead!
**This recipe can easily be made vegan by leaving out the eggs.
In a small nonstick frying pan over medium heat, toast chilis until starting to brown, about 3 minutes, shaking the pan to make sure the chilis are evenly toasted. Set aside.
To the frying pan, add cumin, coriander, mustard seed and fennel. Toast for 1-2 minutes or until they become fragrant. Set aside with chilis.
Destem chilis, and then add all ingredients to a spice grinder. Pulse to grind thoroughly. Set aside.
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor to combine. Reserve for serving.
Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl until fully incorporated
Slowly add the water little by little, mixing together with your hands. The dough should be very stiff, make sure not to add all the water at once- you may not need all of it. You want the dough to be just past dry. It shouldn’t be flaky, but it should be very dense, so that if you stick your finger in it, it does not bounce back at all- it leaves an indent.
You may not need all the water, if you do not use it all, set it aside. Form the dough into a ball and cover it with a towel that you soaked with water and then fully squeezed out. Let the dough rest for 30-45 minutes.
When the dough has rested, knead for about 5 minutes. The tougher the dough, the better your fukcha will be. The dough should be stiff, but if it seems like it is just too hard to knead, wet your hand and wipe it over the dough and keep kneading (very, very little water should be added at a time!)
Next, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, setting one aside under a damp towel. Lightly oil your work surface. Roll out the dough until it is pretty thin, about 1-2 mm thick. Using a 3” round cookie cutter or small cup, cut circles out of the dough, setting them aside to cut all the dough before frying.
When all dough has been cut out, set aside for 5 min.
Bring oil up to high heat (375°), either in a saucepan on the stovetop or in a small fryer. Set a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan and set beside the frying station to drain the fukcha when they come out of the hot oil.
Add dough circles one at a time to hot oil, allowing them to cook about 30 seconds so that the underside turns golden brown. They should start to puff up into spheres within the first few seconds of being in the hot oil. If they aren't, your oil needs to be hotter. Once golden, flip each fukcha over and cook 30 seconds until the other side is golden. When golden all around, take fukcha out of the oil and let drain on the cooling rack.
Peel the potatoes, put in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat and let cook at least 10 minutes, or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.
Boil the eggs: place eggs in a small saucepan and cover with 1" cool water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once boiling, turn off the heat and let sit for 12 minutes. Rinse in cool water for 1 minute and peel. Dice into 1/4"-1/2" cubes. Set aside.
While potatoes and eggs are boiling, drain the cans of chickpeas and rinse thoroughly.
In a large saucepan, add chickpeas, cooked potatoes, water, salt, turmeric, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes start to break down and broth is no longer clear.
Smash the potatoes roughly with the back of a wooden spoon into bite-sized pieces. Turn off the heat. Add onion, cilantro, Serrano pepper, cucumber, 1 ½ tbs. chotpoti masala, and 2 ½ tbs. tamarind sauce.
Take each fukcha and poke a large hole in the top. The fukcha should be crispy enough to poke a hole, if they are soft, either re-fry until they are crispy, or put in a 350° oven for 15 minutes to crisp up
Add a large spoonful of chotpoti to each little fukcha bowl, and top with a little cilantro and drizzle of tamarind mix. Serve with a drizzle of tamarind sauce as to your taste.
chalo khai = Bangla for "Let's eat!"