What French fries or mashed potatoes are to the west, potato bhaaji is to India. This quintessential potato dish can be found across tables in India. But unlike the west where fries are homogenous, the Indian potato bhaji, like the many dialects all over India, takes on a new twist every few miles.
In most homes, a potato bhaaji will surface at least once a week as an accompaniment to the main meal. And because potatoes are quick to cook, it's regular fare when someone unexpectedly drops by for dinner.
In the south, crisp masala dosas (rice and lentil pancakes) are filled generously with potato bhaaji. For school picnics, doting moms wake up in the wee hours to prepare a filling lunch of puri bhaaji (deep-fried Indian bread eaten with potato bhaji). And for many staunch non-vegetarians, potato bhaaji is the only vegetable worth considering.
One of my favorite versions of potato bhaaji is one that takes almost no time to prepare and hits all the delicious criteria—it's fried, it's spicy, and it's versatile enough to be a main or a side.