As part the the ongoing Nutrifest run jointly by the Kolkata Food Bloggers and KPC School of Nutrition, I was to take on a Jhalfrezi this week. Wikipedia defines Jalfrezi (also jhal frezi, zalfrezi, jaffrazi, and many alternative spellings) as a type of curry which involves frying marinated pieces of meat, fish or vegetables in oil and spices to produce a dry, thick sauce. One constant aspect of Jhalfrezi, no matter how you cook it, remains the heat, or what we bongs call ‘Jhaal’, which, incidentally is also the origin of its name. Bell pepper, onion and tomatoes are other ingredients typical of a Jhalfrezi. Jhalfrezi recipes originally appeared in cookbooks from the British era as a way of using up leftovers (a practice taboo to Hindus) by frying them in lots of chillies and onions. Some sources credit Governor General for the state of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys, who was known to enjoy spicy Indian food, for inventions such as the Jhalfrezi. There is, however, some level of confusion on whether ‘frezi’ is derived from the Urdu word ‘Parhezi’ (eating what is good for health) or whether its a mere expression for “Fried, zee”!
There are some ground rules to the kind of vegetables one would ideally use for a Jhalfrezi; for example, they should be neither starchy nor watery. So, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brinjals and spinach eliminate themselves from the list of options. The ideal list would comprise crunchy veggies that hold their own even when cooked, such as carrots and beans. When there are so many colours, I like using at least one white ingredient, and since I had run out of the obvious choice, paneer, I settled for the next best choice, boiled eggs. In the hindsight, it turned out to be a good thing, with the egg imparting both taste and texture to uplift the entire dish.
- Boiled egg: 1 or 2 nos
- Green bell pepper: 1 medium, diced
- Onion: 1 medium, diced
- Carrot: 1 medium, blanched for 10-15 mins
- Green beans: 5-6 nos, blanched for 10-15 mins
- Onion greens: 2-3 stalks
- Tomato: 1 medium, diced
- Green chilly: 1 or 2 nos
- Garlic: 6-7 cloves, lightly pounded
- Ginger: half an inch, grated
- Sunflower or mustard oil: 1 tbsp
- Spice mix: grind together equal portions of-
- Black pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a tbsp of oil in a wok.
- Add the garlic and grated ginger, fry till they release aroma.
- Add ingredients to the pan in this order – onion, bell pepper, onion greens, blanched
- carrot and beans, tomato, chillies – fry till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.
- Season with salt, pepper and a tsp of the ground spices.
- Add the chopped boiled egg, quickly stir and remove from heat.
- Normally, this is where the stir fry ends. However, many prefer a slight gravy in which case one could add a dash of cream or, like me, a dollop of thick curd to bring it all together and mellow down the heat.
Jhalfrezi is usually enjoyed with rotis, although it went perfectly with the toasted bread slices we had with it. Now, why are we not surprised?
*Information on the origin of Jhalfrezi collated by the KPC nutrifest team and from internet and various other sources.