Mixed Veg Torkari

One of my favourite quick weeknight dishes is zeera-alu—potatoes stir-fried simply with cumin, dried red chillies and turmeric. That’s the base recipe (not a million miles from the version posted here). After the initial frying step it literally cooks itself and so it’s a well I go to often. The last time I set out to make it, however, I couldn’t resist adding more and more things and ended up with a mixed-veg torkari (to use the West Bengali term for a slightly moist stir-fry of vegetables). And in true Bengali manner I also couldn’t resist when a packet of shrimp came to hand when I was looking for peas in the freezer. The resulting dish was really rather good and I offer you an approximation of it here. An approximation because—as the shoddy Instagram reel I made of the process shows—it was all done by the seat of my pants. Well, that’s home cooking—a little bit of plus/minus here and there is not going to hurt anything and I would hardly expect slavish fidelity to any recipe I post anyway. Give it a go. And you can just as easily leave out the shrimp and make it vegan.


  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into medium chunks
  • 1 lb cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 small globe eggplant, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 lb small shrimp (optional)
  • 3-5 dried red chillies
  • 1 tspn zeera/cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tspn methi/fenugreek seeds
  • 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
  • 1 tspn coriander seed, coarsely ground
  • 1 tblspn Chinkiang vinegar (or balsamic or sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tspn jaggery or brown sugar
  • Salt
  • 2-3 tblspns of mustard oil/or neutral oil of choice
  • 1-2 tblspns chopped dhania/cilantro


  1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat till just smoking (if using mustard oil) and then reduce the heat to medium. (If not using mustard oil heat the oil over medium heat till it shimmers.)
  2. Add the dried red chillies.
  3. As soon as the chillies become glossy (very soon), add the zeera.
  4. As soon as the zeera becomes aromatic and darkens (very soon), add the methi.
  5. As soon as the methi darkens (very soon), add the potatoes.
  6. Add the haldi, mix in and stir-fry for 7-10 minutes till the potato begins to develop a crust on a side or two.
  7. Add the cauliflower, mix in thoroughly and stir-fry for another 5-7 minutes.
  8. Add the ground coriander seed and salt, mix in and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  9. Add the eggplant and mix in thoroughly.
  10. Add the vinegar and jaggery, mix in and continue to stir-fry till the eggplant has softened considerably and the potatoes are almost done.
  11. Add the shrimp and continue to stir-fry till cooked through.
  12. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with dal and rice or chapatis.


  1. The shrimp is completely optional. Though if you do eat shrimp and adding it grabs your fancy you could add a lot more of it. Approximately 1/2 lb is what was left in the bag when I made this—I would have added a whole pound if it had been available.
  2. Similarly, you can vary the veg and add even more if you like. The key is to add them in order from longest to shortest cooking time.
  3. You may have noticed that in general approach this shares the architecture of Bengali panch-mishali torkari. No panch phoron used here though and there are other important differences too (the use of vinegar, for example, to say nothing of the shrimp).
  4. I think this is best when not made too spicy. But you could certainly toss in a slit green chilli or two with the shrimp too.
  5. Mushoor dal and rice and this makes for an excellent meal.


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