Chinese Potato Stir Fry (Kooka Upakari)

Chinese Potato Stir Fry (Kooka Upakari)

Chinese potato is a seasonal and rare vegetable mostly available in South India. Unlike normal potato it is small and black in colour. It's black colour is due to the soil sticking on it. The taste of this vegetable is earthy, distinct and they are extremely delicious on cooking.

Chinese potato is called as kook in Konkani and sambrani in Kanada. They are a favourite among the Konkani community.

Stir fries called as upakaris in Konkani are a quintessential part of any Konkani spread (be it from any vegetable). Chinese potato stir fry is an all time favourite of Konkanis prepared for all specials occasions during the Chinese potato season. 

Chinese potatoes are also used as a vegetable in various coconut based curries like ghashi's, koddel's, kooka randayigajbaje ambat, valval and in dry, spicy side dishes called as sukke

As Chinese potatoes grow underground, they require a lot of cleaning and peeling before they can be used to cook. Cleaning and peeling Chinese potatoes can be tedious. Traditionally, the Chinese potatoes are peeled by pouring them into a clean, dry gunny bag/jute bag and then the gunny bag is hit against the floor many a times, till the Chinese potato skin begins to come off on its own. If any skin remains after repeatedly hitting the bag of Chinese potatoes, then you rub the skin against the jute/gunny bags to remove the skin off. This process however works only if the Chinese potatoes are freshly harvested. This process doesn't work if they have dried up or after many days of harvesting. The Chinese potato peel would have got dried up by then and they tend to stick tight to the potatoes. 

Then you would have to peel these chinese potatoes using a peeler. It does blacken and stain your fingers. So, wear gloves while peeling if you wish. The colour of your skin returns back only after a few washes.

Some people peel the Chinese potatoes once they are pressure cooked. That is an easier, faster way to peel Chinese potatoes without much hassle. However, there is a huge taste difference in Chinese potatoes that are peeled and then cooked than the other way round.

Here's how to make kooka upakari, Chinese potato stir fry:


1 cup of peeled, chopped Chinese potatoes
2 tablespoons of grated coconut
2 tablespoons of oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon urad dal
2 leaflets of curry leaves
1 dried red chilli
1 green chilli
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (1/2 teaspoon) (optional)
A pinch of asafoetida powder

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Preparation Method:

1. Peel the chinese potatoes, wash them well with water.

Keep them immersed in a bowl of water until you chop them or else they get oxidised and turn brown. 

2. Chop them into thin vertical slices and add them into a bowl of water to prevent their oxidation.

3. Parboil them in a pressure cooker using just a half a cup of water and salt for just a whistle.

If you add more water they tend to overcook. If you cook for longer they overcook and get mushy. If you want them well separated and firm then you need to add less water and cook for just a whistle.

4. Once the Chinese potatoes are cooked, drain the hot water and keep them aside. If not they tend to cook more in the hot water and get sticky, mushy due to all the starch that gets released into the water.

5. Meanwhile, in a wok/skillet heat oil, add in mustard seeds and let them splutter.

6. Once they start popping add in urad dal, slit green chilli, dried red chilli cut into pieces and let them fry until the urad starts to brown. 

7. Add in curry leaves and let them sizzle for few seconds. Add in asafoetida powder and let it sizzle for few seconds.

8. Then add in cooked Chinese potato, grated coconut, sugar (just half a teaspoon for taste) and mix well. Check and adjust salt.

9. Simmer for few minutes with stirring/tossing in between to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

10. Once all the ingredients and flavours have combined, remove it off heat and serve hot as a side dish with a bowl of steaming hot rice or conjee.

Side Note:

If the Chinese potatoes are fresh and haven't dried then you can cook chopped Chinese potatoes in the wok after seasoning, without pressure cooking them before hand.

If the Chinese potatoes aren't fresh and have dried out a little, then cooking them in a pressure cooker in advance, fastens the cooking process. 

Find more Konkani cuisine side dishes here

Tags: Kook, chinese potato, upakari, stir fry, side dish, lunch, dinner, Konkani recipe, Konkani dish, Konkani cuisine, Udupi cuisine, Mangalore food, Konkani food