Hello from what will undoubtedly be the most bizarre period of our lives. It feels strange to be posting an aloo sabzi recipe amid such a dire situation, but here I am.

I’m writing from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where the country is on edge due to reports of growing cases and the likelihood of a national emergency declaration that would severely restrict movement. Since hearing about the epidemic in China, Saptarshi and I had been waiting for the axe to fall in Cambodia. It’s been a terribly upsetting three months as we’ve watched the pandemic spread from nation to country, wreaking havoc on Iran, Italy, Spain, and now New York, where my younger brother and sister live. The crisis is escalating in Pakistan, where the government has refused to prohibit religious gatherings despite attempts by neighbouring Muslim countries. South Asia is a ticking time bomb due to its population density.

While in Pakistan earlier this month, I was speaking with my mother about resilience and what it takes to be a resilient person, family, and unit. International development professionals frequently discuss household and community resilience, specifically how to create or improve their ability to resist a catastrophe. In the previous year, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it as an individual.

My resiliency’reserves’ were fully exhausted last spring. It took me leaving my job, a merciless detachment from my family and friends’ difficulties, a focus on eating, and a lot of self-reflection and rest to gradually regain equilibrium. I still haven’t accepted my decision to take ‘time off,’ but I believe that if I hadn’t taken those steps, I would not have been prepared to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

The vast majority of people do not have the same advantages as me, such as a solid income spouse, no pressing professional obligations or pending bills, and the capacity to quarantine in a comfortable atmosphere. We’re keeping in touch with our friends and family on a daily basis, and everyone appears to be safe thus far. We’re devastated that my sister-in-and law’s friends’ nuptials in May have had to be rescheduled. But we’re looking forward to commemorating them after the virus’s shroud has dissipated.

In the meantime, I’m working on a number of projects that are keeping me occupied. Some are more basic, such as revising ancient recipes like kadhi chawal and bagara baingan; some are more exciting, such as looking through cookbooks for recipes of Pakistani regional cuisines; and working on other narrative concepts, this time focusing more on Cambodia.

Given the circumstances, I hope you are doing well as well. Be kind with yourself. There is no right way to feel right now, as my younger and wiser sister recently informed me. I’m sending you tonnes of love and an easy aloo sabzi dish that got me through graduate school and perhaps quarantine.


  • ¼ cup oil canola/sunflower/vegetable
  • ½ teaspoon kalonji (nigella seeds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced in half rings
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 roma tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 3 potatoes diced
  • ½ cup cilantro finely chopped


  • Heat oil. Add kalonji (nigella seeds) and fry for a few seconds until they begin to pop.
  • Add chopped onion and brown on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes.
  • Add crushed ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds.
  • Add ground spices (turmeric, red chili and coriander powder) and fry for 30 seconds – 1 minute until aromatic. Splash with water to deglaze the pan if necessary.
  • Add tomatoes and salt. Fry on high heat to soften the tomatoes, about 5 minutes.
  • Add potatoes and coat in masala for 2 – 5 minutes.
  • Add ½ – 1 cup water, just enough to cover the potatoes, and bring to boil. Lower heat and let the masala simmer in uncovered saucepan for 10 – 15 minutes or until potatoes are done.
  • Turn off heat and gently fold in diced cilantro. Place a tight fitting lid on the saucepan and let the potatoes steam for another 5 minutes.


To prevent the potatoes from darkening while cooking, I have found that soaking the peeled and chopped potatoes in water helps.

The dish is versatile and can be served with a wide variety of dishes. Personally, I love it with poori and suji ka halwa.

Leave a Comment