Today's recipe is an Indian twist on an old Mexican favorite - flautas. I love that flautas can be appetizers or entrees. By the way, this was the first Mexican dish I ever cooked for Amit and he's been hooked since. The combination of spices and crunchiness makes these flautas quite addictive.
Don't you just love looking at spices? I'm always mesmerized by all the colors, smells, and textures! I try not to play favorites with my spices but as you'll see, I gravitate towards a few of them as my base and then mix it up every now and then. For this recipe, I'm introducing the delicious Pav Bhaji masala. Pav Bhaji masala is sold at most Indian grocery stores and some specialty markets. It is made with red chili, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, mango powder, and fennel seeds and it's traditionally used to flavor a famous Indian dish: Pav Bhaji (seasoned potatoes with buttered toast). I really hope you can find this masala in your local market, because it will definitely take your dish to the next level.
To start, boil the potatoes and cook the onions and spices. Then, add queso fresco and mash everything together. If you can't find queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese), you can substitute with your favorite soft, mild cheese. Notice I said mild. Sure! you can use a sharp cheese if you prefer, but then you'll have a lot of strong flavors competing for attention and you may miss the deliciousness that is Pav Bhaji masala.
Next, roll the filling into warm tortillas and fry them up. If the tortillas start unrolling, secure them with a toothpick, but remind yourself to remove those before eating (sounds silly, but trust me, biting into a toothpick can be quite painful). You can adjust the frying time to get softer or crispier flautas, depending on your preference. Since the filling is fully cooked, you don't have to worry about having to reach a certain temperature.
A word of caution: let the flautas cool down a little bit before digging in because there will be steam build-up inside. When I cooked these, I was so hungry (surprise, surprise...) that I threw caution to the wind and ended up with a nasty burn inside my mouth - not cool.
To finish up the dish, I added cole slaw, achar (Indian pickle), and green chutney crema (home-made green chutney + cream). The crema is very simple to make, if you'd like me to post a quick recipe for it, let me know. I hope you enjoy these vegetarian flautas as much as we do. Buen provecho!
- 3 medium (or 2 large) potatoes
- 1/3 cup white onion, chopped
- 1/4 lb queso fresco (or your favorite soft, mild cheese)
- 12 corn tortillas
- ½ tablespoon garam masala
- ½ tablespoon turmeric powder
- ½ tablespoon red chili powder
- ½ tablespoon cumin powder
- ½ tablespoon pav bhaji masala (optional, but adds lots of flavor)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- oil for frying (enough to cover the flautas in a saute pan)
1. Boil the potatoes until soft.
2. In a saute pan, pre-heat 1 tablespoon of oil at medium high heat. Fry the onions until lightly brown.
3. Once the onions are ready, lower the heat to medium and add the spices (garam masala, turmeric, red chili, cumin, pav bhaji masala, and garlic powder). Cook for 30-45 seconds. You will notice a difference in the smell, it should smell pleasant, not burned. Turn the heat off.
4. In a large bowl, use a potato masher to combine the potatoes, seasoned onions, cheese, salt, and pepper.
5. Heat the tortillas on a griddle until soft.
6. Add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the potato filling to each tortilla and roll to make the flautas. If necessary, use a toothpick to secure.
7. In the same saute pan as step 2, pre-heat more oil for frying at medium-high heat.
8. Fry the rolled flautas in oil. Do not overcrowd the pan, you will need to this in batches depending on the size of your pan. It should take about 1-2 minutes per set, depending on how crispy you want them.
9. Use a paper towel to absorb extra oil once you remove the flautas from the pan. If you used toothpicks, make sure to remove them now.
I paired these flautas with cole slaw, green chutney crema, and achar (Indian pickle). Other options are rice and beans or guacamole and salad.