Chops mean something very different in India than they do in the West (and when I say India I mostly mean Bengal). They do not refer to a particular cut of meat; in fact, they don’t refer to any cut of meat at all. Chops can have meat in them, they can have fish in in them, and they often have vegetables in them. By “chop” you see we mean what people elsewhere refer to as croquettes. How it is that we came to call them chops I don’t know, and I have no idea why other people didn’t start calling them chops either. Indian English is generally better when it comes to food names: brinjal is a much better word than eggplant or aubergine; and you would have to be mad to think that okra is a better name for that vegetable than lady’s finger (oh the confusion when Indians first see ladyfinger on menus in the West). Anyway, just so you know, a chop is made by taking mashed potato, stuffing it with a savoury filling, breading it and deep-frying it. You can eat them as snacks or as accompaniments with dal and rice.
The recipe I have today is for keema (ground meat) chops but you can just as easily make them with fish or a mix of vegetables (say beetroot an/or cauliflower).
Ingredients (to make 18-20 chops)
- 2 lbs waxy potatoes, boiled, cooled and mashed thoroughly
- 1 lb ground red meat of some kind (I used beef on this occasion)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, grated
- 1/2 tspn mild chilli powder (or you can use hot chilli powder too)
- 1/4 tspn turmeric
- A few coarse grinds of black pepper
- 2 tblspns golden raisins, chopped
- 1/4 cup peas
- Salt to taste
- Bread crumbs (regular or panko)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tblspn vegetable oil
- Peanut oil for deep frying
- Boil the potatoes and set aside to cool. Once completely cool, mash the potatoes.
- In a pan heat a tablespoon or so of oil and add the chopped onion.
- Once the onion begins to brown add the ginger and after about 30 seconds add all the spices. Saute for another minute or two, stirring constantly.
- Add the raisins and stir for another minute or so.
- Add the ground beef and salt, crumble the beef and mix thoroughly with the onions etc.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly till the beef begins to brown as well.
- Add the peas, crush them slightly with your spatula and stir for another few minutes.
- Set aside to cool.
- Form the mashed potato into 18-20 balls of equal size.
- Take each ball in the palm of one hand and with the thumb of the other make a deep indentation. Fill the gap with as much of the meat mixture as you can, pull the mashed potato over to seal and gently shape into an oblong. Fill and shape all your chops and set aside.
- Set up an assembly line with the shaped chops on a plate, the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and the bread crumbs in another plate and another empty plate. Dip each chop in the eggwash, roll in the breadcrumbs and place on the second plate.
- When all are coated with crumbs, heat the peanut oil and once at temperature (test by dropping some breadcrumbs in) fry as many chops as you want to eat. They should be golden to a slightly dark brown when done. Place on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Eat them warm.
- I say to make 18-20 chops with this recipe because those yield chops of a more canonical size. Personally, I like my chops larger and I usually end up with 12-14 with 2 lbs of potatoes.
- If you’ve not made anything like this before don’t be nervous. The hardest part is stuffing and shaping the chops and you should know that each chop can take at least two tablespoons of filling.
- Your life will be much easier if you use waxy potatoes. These makes for chops that are more “elastic” while filling and which hold their shape easily. I don’t peel the potatoes, by the way.
- You can of course make your filling much hotter if you like (or use more spices); I make them mild so our boys can eat them.
- You could make a mint chutney or tamarind chutney to eat these with but frankly the best dipping sauce for chops is this. Get a bottle.
- You can bread and store extra chops in the fridge for a couple of days. That way you can prep a large batch and enjoy them freshly fried over a few days.