- 500 gm baby potatoes
- 1 whole red onion, diced
- 3 Thai chilli peppers (or serrano peppers), finely chopped
- 1 whole lemon, squeezed
- 1 teaspoon salt (or acc. to your taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons mustard oil (or any vegetable oil)
- two pinches fenugreek seeds (about 15-20 seeds)
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Chukauni — pronounced CHOO-COW-NEE — is one of the most popular dishes from the western Palpa region in Nepal. Both of my parents are from Palpa, so I grew up eating this spicy potato and yogurt salad almost every weekend.
This is a fairly simple dish to make, as ingredients for this are readily available anywhere. There are some people who will recommend adding peas. Please don’t. Before you start, keep in mind this is traditionally a spicy dish, but you can reduce or eliminate the chilli peppers and powder if you absolutely cannot handle them. For the lazy ones out there, you can also reduce the preparation time for this by microwaving potatoes instead of boiling them.
Bring some water to a boil in a medium pot. Wash the potatoes in running water, and immerse them into the boiling water. I use smaller, baby potatoes — they are quick to boil, you don’t have to peel them, and are tastier). The potatoes should be ready after about 20 minutes. If you stick a fork, it should go through quite easily. Drain the water and wash the potatoes in cold water. Peel the potatoes if you’re using larger potatoes. You can choose to keep the skin if you use baby potatoes. Slice them into bite-size pieces.
In a mixing bowl, add the chopped onions, chilli peppers, salt, chilli powder, and lemon juice (traditionally, we use a thickened citrus concentrate called chook). Add the diced potatoes and yogurt into the bowl and mix well.If you’re using thick yogurt, it’s okay to add a few tablespoons of water. Use your hands — that’s how the Palpalis would do it.
In a small pan, heat some mustard oil (you can use sunflower or canola oil as well, but mustard oil gives it a distinct flavor) and throw in the fenugreek seeds. Once the seeds start turning dark brown, turn the heat off, and add the turmeric powder into the bubbling oil. Pour the oil into the mixing bowl. Swoosh!
Mix it well and garnish it with cilantro. Or more chilli flakes, because what’s life without a little bit of sweat and tears? 😂💦