Yummy yam

Pushpesh Pant

Yams are a wonderful food and have helped humankind survive many a difficult time such as droughts and famines. A rich storehouse of starch and supply, they give energy. In many African countries, yams are treated as staple, a substitute for cereals. It is said they are hardier than even millets and can grow in arid, infertile land too. In Nepal and Uttarakhand, the most favoured yam is tarud that grows between hard rocks.

We have never been able to understand why we, in India, look down upon yams. Perhaps because these are associated with poor people’s diet and not considered worthy of reaching the high table. It is only in Punjab and Maharashtra that suran, or elephant foot yam, is relished. In Kerala, they have their own version called kappa (tapioca) that is paired with spicy curried fish. We recently came across a delicious zimikand curry from the Kayastha kitchen. Men from this community would generally eat meat, but women were vegetarians. So, they created for themselves this meaty recipe with a twist!

Our good friend, the late Jiggs Kalra, had also created a delectable veg galouti from yam, called Tohfa-e-Zameen, for the Hyatt in Delhi. But that is another story.

Dhungaar zimikand


  • Zimikand 500 to 600 gm
  • Bay leaf 1
  • Cinnamon stick 1-inch piece
  • Cloves 3-4
  • Brown cardamom 1
  • Black peppercorns ½ tsp
  • Red chilli (whole, dry) 1
  • Turmeric powder ¼ tsp
  • Coriander powder 1 tsp
  • Garlic-ginger paste 1 tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Onions (medium sized, sliced fine) 2
  • Oil to deep fry zimikand
  • Ghee 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds ¼ tsp

Method: Boil the yam, but do not make it very mushy; it should retain some bite. Peel and cut into 2-inch cubes. Fry the pieces until they turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon. Retain about 3 tbsp oil in the pan. Add to it bay leaf and whole spices. As they change colour, add the onions and stir fry till rich pink. Add garlic-ginger paste and cook for one more minute. Add the powdered spices along with salt dissolved in a little water and pour into the pan. Keep stirring. When fat begins to separate, add the yam and a cup of hot water. Bring to boil and reduce the flame. Cover and cook for 10 mins. Heat ghee in a ladle, and add the whole red chilli and cumin seeds. As the seeds begin to crackle, pour the tempering over the curry. Cover it for the dhungaar to work its magic.

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