What is Jalfrezi?
Jalfrezi is Indian version of Chinese stir-fry made with curry spices
During the Raj, British created this method of reheating left-over. You may credit the Governor General for the state of Bengal, Lord Marcus Sandys who enjoyed spicy Indian foods. He is also credited with converting Tamarind/ Jaggery Chutney into Worcestershire sauce. In Bengal, 'Jhal' means spicy hot. Jhal led to Jal. Some historians have asserted that Frezi is derived from the Urdu word 'Parhezi', Parhezi is a person with discriminating taste. The context is wrong, Parhezi does not eat food that may be harmful to health. I believe it is just a slang for 'Fried, zee!"; where, zee is Urdu word to emphasize on the instruction to fry.
As the time passed, Indian restaurants adapted the method to make stir-fry with marinated meats. All Jalfrezi dishes have visible: onions, bell pepper, tomatoes, and Serrano. Nowadays, the meats not be leftovers, precooked, or even marinated. You may not use any meats at all, and use different vegetables instead.
Compare the following recipes. The spices are almost same. The Lamb is marinated for one hour, Prawns are marinates for 15 minutes. Chicken and Paneer are not marinated at all. Vegetables are blanched. You can master your own version.
Choosing Spices for Jalfrezi
Do not overwhelm Jalfrezi with too many spices. I avoid whole spices. We make a lot of Jalfrezi. Therefore, we make our own mix.
Dry Jalfrezi Spice Mix (1 Tablespoon)
1. Turmeric powder: ¼ teaspoon
2. Hot Cayenne powder: ½ teaspoon
3. Ground Cumin: ½ teaspoon
4. Ground Coriander: ¾ teaspoon
5. Amchoor (Dry mango powder: ¼ teaspoon
You can substitute Amchoor with Citric acid for a sharper taste
6. Cinnamon powder: ¼ teaspoon
7. Ground Cloves: ¼ teaspoon
8. Ground black pepper: ¼ teaspoon
Choosing Oils for frying
Do not use Ghee or Butter. You can use any plant oil of your choice. I use Canola oil. I have also used Mustard oil. While using mustard oil, you must first heat it to almost to smoking, let it cool, and then re-heat for frying. It gives an interesting edge with Vegetable Jalfrezi.
For Jalfrezi, the vegetables must be dense, yet neither starchy nor watery. Potatoes and Peas are starchy, Spinach is watery. You can select any of following.
Vegetables that need not be blanched
Onions. I like red onions, they add color to the dish
Bell peppers. You can add different colors red, green yellow, purple. You can even make Jalfrezi of just various colored bell peppers.
Tomatoes. You should get rid of water and the seeds. Plum tomatoes work very well
Zucchini. Use large zucchini. Summer squash is watery.
Vegetables that need to be blanched
Cauliflower, String beans, Carrots, Broccoli
To blanch vegetables:
1. Bring water to a boil
2. Add Vegetables.
3. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain immediately
4. Pour cold water over the vegetables to stop further cooking.
Vegetables to avoid
Potatoes, Green peas, Corn, Greens (Spinach, Mustard), Summer squash
Aalan or Not
I like my Jalfrezi to have the consistency of a Chinese stir-fry, and not as if the exemplars were immersed in a thick tomato curry sauce. Many restaurants use Tomato puree or Tomato paste to give the Jalfrezi a body. I use Besan Aalan. In Punjab, Besan Aalan and Makki Aalan are used to give body to Saag (Paalak Saag, or Sarson Saag). Aalan is a slurry made of water and Besan or corn flour (1 Tablespoon of flour to ¼ cup of water).
In Chinese cuisine, a slurry of Corn Starch and water is used to give body to the stir-fry. It is the same concept.
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