One of Delhi’s signature winter street foods is Shakarkandi. We all breathe a sigh of relief in the autumn when the spicy sweet potato vendors appear: we know the cooler weather is truly on its way.
As with much Indian street food, a plate of Shakarkandi is a tapas-sized portion and ideal for those between meals dilemmas. I particularly love ordering a plate late afternoon when dinner seems a long way off. I ordered up this plate outside Lodhi Gardens after a Republic Day walk last Tuesday. I love watching the ritual of assembling the Shakarkandi – the sweet potato is first plucked from the small pile warming on a pile of coal, slowly peeled, cubed and tumbled into a plate. The cubes are then liberally sprinkled with masala and lemon juice before being mixed with an expert flick of the wrist.
Shakarkandi is one of the few guilt-free street snacks – no ghee, no sugar, no oil; pure, simple and wholesome – roasted sweet potato sprinkled with masala and drenched with lemon juice, some of the fancier vendors add a few slices of kamrakh (star fruit). Yet it manages to feel like a mini-feast, an instant cure for whatever ails you.
Making shakarkandi at home couldn’t be easier and yet I’d never got round to it until a couple of days ago. I’d had a late breakfast so wasn’t really looking for a huge lunch but I knew I wouldn’t last till dinner. A simple roast sweet potato seemed to fit the bill. I had a pack of Chaat Masala (a special blend designed specially for street snacks) from Noori Spices in Chitli Qabar in Old Delhi that I was dying to try out. The Noori blend contains coriander, yellow chilli, cumin seed, dry raw mango, black salt, sea salt, kachri powder (kachri is a type of cucumber I think), fennel, cardamom, ginger powder, bay leaf and nousadar (no clue what this is).
Home Made Shakarkandi
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
Half a lemon
Chaat Masala, to taste
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees
Pierce the sweet potatoes a few times to stop them exploding in the oven. Roast for about 30-45 minutes – they should feel soft but not mushy when pierced with a knife.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into dice, sprinkle with masala and lemon juice and dig in.