Growing up, spice was the most valued currency — not just in my mother’s kitchen, but in the economy of my household. Any problem or fight could be resolved with a spicy dish, angry or sad tears replaced with euphoric ones. My favorite comfort dish, weaponized by my mother to win my affection every chance she gets, are red chili fries. The warm blend of spices includes the divine “kala namak,” or black salt, which is manufactured in mines located on the base of the Himalayas and traditionally used in the Indian subcontinent. My mom typically purchases this salt in bulk at the local Indian store, but I’ve found that you can order it through Target’s website. If you can’t get your hands on any kala namak, you can always substitute it with a different salty seasoning of your choosing, and you can find my replacement recommendation below. Though I prefer fries fried in oil, I found that the flavor is just as robust if prepared in an air fryer. The choice is up to you, but here’s my mother’s recipe:
Red chili fries
Yield: 1 Serving
Time: 35 minutes
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 tablespoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons black salt (recommended substitution: 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper)
- Squeeze of lemon
- Optional: 2 cups olive or vegetable oil (if frying traditionally)
- Wash and peel potatoes, then cut into long, thin rectangles (or whatever shape you like — sometimes I eat them as smaller squares).
- Soak potatoes in a bowl of cold water for 20-30 minutes.
- Fry potato slices until golden brown (whether using an air fryer, for around 15 minutes, or the regular frying method, for 4-6 minutes, make sure to keep an eye on the fries as they’re cooking).
- Once done, dab fries lightly to remove excess oil.
- Move fries to a large bowl.
- Garnish with red chili powder, table and black salt.
- Lightly squeeze lemon juice on top.
- Shake them up until they’re well mixed, and enjoy!
If you aren’t big on spice, you can skip the red chili powder and just go with the black salt, table salt and lime for some savory, delicious fries. But, then again, if you weren’t big on spice, you wouldn’t have clicked on this recipe! For you, I would say throw in whatever spices you like, such as cayenne or Sichuan pepper powder, and see what spice flavor profile suits you. I believe no two lovers of spice have the same exact preferences. For me, whenever I get my hands on French fries, I cannot resist adding a dash of spice, a preference that somehow turned into an innate habit. Try these fries, and perhaps you won’t be able to forget them either.
A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the October 12, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.