Fuchka; commonly pronounced as ‘Fooch-caa’ or even ‘phuch-ka”, though let’s be real the former is what it sounds like! Now fuchka is a common street delicacy in Bangladesh. This tangy crispy potato-pea filled snack is a favourite all over the country!
For those who may not be familiar with this nibble, fuchka is like crispy profiterole filled with a spicy peas-potato mash, topped with grated boiled egg and herbs, dipped into a spicy-tangy tamarind water before you pop the whole thing in a bite.
Fuchka used to be one of the few things I used to look forward to on summer holidays to Dhaka; rikshaw rides to hunt the best fuchka in the area was quite the adventure considering how little familiar we were with Dhaka back then. I miss the chaos that would surround each stall or fuchka wallah, some asking for more tetul paani aka tamarind water, fuchka shells and the brave souls wanting more red chilli flakes in theirs. I surely can’t find that same ambience in a foreign land but it still feels weirdly amazing because every time I dunk that shell in the tamarind water it takes me back to my favourite fuchka place in Dhaka and so much more!
Most of the times if I have the right ingredients at home I would put them together and make something that’s inspired from food I have had at restaurants or from recipes I have watched on YouTube. I came up with this recipe on a weekend when I was actually missing Dhaka, yes I will take any excuse to get into the kitchen!
This can be quite the time-consuming recipe which essentially has three parts to it; that is if you choose to make your own crispy shells, but I just ain’t got the time nor patience for that so we will stick to a two part recipe, which will take about 30 minutes! At times like this I feel grateful for living in the part of the city where getting ready-made fuchka shells aka pani puri is just a few bus stops away. You can also get the dry ones which you would have to fry in deep oil, again I am a lazy Bengali so I will resort to the boxed ready-made shells. The boxed ones also have a down side that they may sometimes be stale thus won’t be as crispy as they are supposed to be.
The spices that season the filling is crucial in bringing the whole thing together and once again you can compromise by only using a chaat masala powder instead of all the dry spices that I will be listing below. I also feel that if you can make a kick-ass tamarind water then this compromise on the spice mixture can be overlooked.
For the tamarind water, please use wet tamarind or paste tamarind which can be bought in packaged blocks. My secret to a good tarmarind water which is not too tart, is soaking the tamarind in salt water till it loosens up. Adding the salt first and letting it sit for a while helps balance out the sour-ness from the tamarind pods. The lemon juice also helps to reduce the’tarty’ flavour of the pods.
The garnishing or toppings are quite simple: grated boiled egg, chopped onion, fresh coriander and chopped chillies.
Part I: Making the filling
The filling prep is the only part of this recipe which will take some time, but can also be played around with, you can use chick peas instead of the vatana peas. White peas or vatana look very similar to garbanzo beans but are white and smaller in size. Cooking white peas is quite time-consuming and I am sure the fuchka tastes more authentic if made with white peas instead of the chick peas. The peas have to be cooked down with potatoes into a creamy mash kind of mixture but it’s not meant to be smooth and should have lumps of peas and potatoes which gives the filling a texture. Once again, because I am opting for chick peas, the cooking time will be a lot less.
What you need for the filling:
2 cups of chick peas
6-8cups of water
3 small-medium potatoes
1tsp roasted ground cumin
1tsp roasted red chilli powder
salt- to your preference
1/4tsp rock salt or pink salt
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1tbsp roasted chaat masala ( add 2.5tbsp if you are only using this spice)
Step 1: Bring chick peas to a boil, you can add the cubed potatoes to the same boiling water. The chick peas and potatoes should take about 20 minutes to boil down to creamy mixture, the starch from the potatoes adds the creamy texture.
Step 2: In the 15th minute, take a potato masher and slowly run it along the mixture, careful not to completely mash the peas and potatoes but should rather only break the potatoes. Most of the water should be drying up at this point, so while the mixture is still wet add all the dry spices, coriander and the rock salt. Cook this in high flame for the last 5 minutes and you can add warm water if you feel it’s becoming too dry. On cooling it will dry up even more as the peas will soak in the excess water. Take off from heat and add the fresh coriander and chopped chillies ( avoid adding the chillies now if you don’t want it too hot).
* I dry roast each spice separately. Dry roast red chillies and then blitz it up in a grinder forming that powder with chunks of the skin still visible. All the other spices such as the chaat masala, nutmeg and the cumin can be bought as powders which must be dry roasted before adding to the pea filling.
What you need for the tamarind water (Tetul-paani):
100g of tamarind
3 cups of lukewarm water
salt- to your preference
1tsp cumin powder
1/4tsp rock salt
Juice of half a lemon
1tbsp fresh chopped coriander
1tsp chopped green chillies
The tamarind water can be the condiment to the dish or can be what lifts the fuchka,it really depends on personal preference. I enjoy fuchka more because of the tamarind water than the filling so I go easy on the filling and take the tamarind water up a notch.
Part II: To make the tamarind water
Step 3: soak about 100g of tamarind in 3 cups of warm water. Add about a tsp of salt to the water before soaking in the tamarind. Let the tamarind sit for 10 minutes. Gently loosen up the tamarind in the water, making sure to get the flesh of the pods as much as possible.
Step 4: Get a strainer and pour the tamarind water in a bigger bowl and while you are pouring down the liquid, continue pressing down the tamarind pods to release most of the skin. You should have a thick water mixture with most of the skin back in the strainer with the pods. Some people like the tamarind water a bit thick in consistency while others pour extra water down the strainer. I however, don’t add any more water at this point.
Step 5: Season the water with sugar, rock salt, lemon juice and roasted cumin powder. Don’t add the salt and sugar at one go but little at a time and taste each time so that you know when to stop!
For your garnish: ( however you like it )
2 boiled eggs, grated
1/2 chopped onion
bunch of fresh coriander
Finally, to eat these goodies: crack the shell open with the edge of a spoon to make a small hole and pack in the chick pea mixture with a teaspoon. Add your garnish,a spoonful (teaspoon or tablespoon depending on your preference) of tamarind water down the mixture and take that much awaited bite!