what the heck is a vegetable chop?
So I was born in Houston, Texas and while my parents were both born in India, they have been living in the US since my dad moved to get his Master's Degree at the University of Houston. So a really long time. In fact, all of our family that was in India are all in the US now on both sides. My parents (my dad) grumbled about going back eventually to India to retire and living like royalty with the money they saved here but they haven't actually gone back to visit India. They finally went for a ceremony that my sister held for her first son (some of her hub's family is still there) which was about 30+ years since they've been back. I wasn't with them on that trip (thank Lucifer!) but I can tell you that once they got back, I never heard about their "retirement" plan again. I guess while India has changed 1000% from what it was when they grew up there, it's still super hard to go back living there once you have enjoyed a certain life in the states for most of your life!
Now, I have a guy in my life that was born in India although he has been in the US since he moved here alone (he is a pilot) for his career at 21. Since he is my age at 42, he has been in the US for half of his life. The other half wasn't that long ago and he has these home memories that mostly revolve around food. While his family still lives in India, every time he goes back for visits, there are certain foods that he always craves and gorges on. Apparently, vegetable chops are one of those foods. Now, if you have never heard of them, you would be like me. I had to do some research and it turns out that it is indeed a thing that is popular in India and different regions make them slightly different. They are traditionally a deep fried snack (India seems to specialize in deep fried foods) and the vegetable portion usually consists of carrots and red beets.
I decided to make them in a healthier way as I am not a fan of deep fried foods (as in while I love to eat fried foods, it is not a good idea for keeping the inflammation in my body down). So I found several recipes online and tried a few and finally came up with one that I think hits the right notes without being overly complicated. Now fair warning - this isn't one of my easy breezy recipes. It does take some time and I reached about 65% of the recipe and wanted to just stop. Even sitting down and writing out the recipe was a herculean task BUT the final product was damn good. I think that if you made this a few times, it would be much quicker and as you will see, the first step in the process is making the spice mix by grinding up whole spices. Once you make this spice mix, you can easily store the rest for the future which will help to speed up the process. Also, if you make mashed potatoes or boil potatoes a lot for different recipes, this is an excellent way to use up the leftovers in a unique and different way! This is my secret super power...taking leftover food and transforming them into a whole different menu item. You'll see.
SPICE MASALA MIX:
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 black cardamom pod
1 inch cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor)
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp salt (black salt if you have it)
Oil - 1 Tbsp
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek powder
Green Chilli - 2 finely chopped (I used Thai but you can omit this if you don't like spicy)
Carrot - 1 medium, shredded
Beetroot - 1 medium, shredded
Ginger Garlic Paste - 1 tsp (optional but I like it in here)
Salt to taste
1 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp roasted raw peanuts - skins removed and roughly chopped
T Tbsp cilantro, chopped
3 to 4 small potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup water (use less and add as needed to make a thin batter)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs (can be seasoned or not...I try and use whole wheat ones if I have them)
Avocado oil spray
Heat a pan on low heat. Add all the whole spice masala mix ingredients to the pan to toast up until they become super fragrant and golden brown. Transfer them to a small blender. Add in the other ground spices as well. I use the small sauce/spice sized mixer for my Vitamix but a spice grinder would work just as well here.
Let the spices cool down for 5 minutes or so and then grind them all into a powder and set aside. You will have some left over for the next time that you make this recipe.
Meanwhile, take 1 Tbsp of oil and heat up in a deep non stick pan or wok on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek powder and heat up until it starts sizzling.
Add the finely chopped green chili’s and fry for a few seconds and then add the shredded carrot and beet. You can add the ginger garlic paste here too if you want to use it. I love anything garlic so I always add it in.
Stir fry the veggies for about 2 minutes and then add the salt so that they will soften quicker. Keep stir frying it for another few minutes until they are soft. Cover and cook to speed up the process.
Add in about 2 tsp of the spice mix you made earlier and the 1 tsp of sugar. Keep mixing constantly and add the cilantro, peanuts and mashed potatoes to the mixture.
Turn the heat to low and cook the entire mixture for a few minutes until everything becomes incorporated. The color of the mixture should be a deep maroon.
Once the mixture is done cooking, spread all of it on a plate to cool down. This should take about 10 minutes or so as the mixture will be super hot.
Once it is cool to the touch, use your hands and mix it all together again to make sure that everything is all mixed in. Form into small oblong shapes…you should be able to get about 10 to 12. I made mine double the size and ended up with 8 large chops. Use wet hands if your mixture is sticking to them.
It’s now time for breading them! Make a thin paste with the flour, cornstarch and water. Add more or less water if needed so that it is not too thin or too thick. You will dip the chops in here and then the breadcrumbs. While breading, keep one hand wet while dipping it in the flour paste and one hand dry when dipping it in the breadcrumbs.
Repeat this step to bread all of the chops a second time (I know you won’t want to at this point, but it is necessary and totally worth it!)
Pre-heat your air fryer to 400F for 5 minutes.
Spray the chops with avocado spray on all sides. Once pre-heated, add your chops in a single layer in the basket and air fry for 10 minutes at 400F. Halfway through, check on them and shake the basket. Spray with oil again if you find it necessary. Depending on how large your chops are, you may need to increase the time. Since mine were large, I had to add an additional 5 minutes of cooking time.
They should be golden brown and delicious when they are done!
UPDATE: I finally did a semi-short-ish video of the process! I made these again for a dinner party I was having and wanted to make them early and freeze them. I thought I would go ahead and make this for my loyal followers :).
Weird right? Delicious? Absolutely!
LINKS TO SOME OF THE THINGS:
Awesome Air Fryer (soooo awesome!!!)
Vitamix (this is the one I have, in white of course!)
Vitamix Smoothie Kit (if you drink smoothies or protein shakes, I love mine)
Vitamix Small Mixing Cups (perfect for grinding spices)