Marwaris are a highly successful business community that originated in Marwar, in the deserts of Rajasthan. Many left their hometowns to create large businesses elsewhere in India. They are completely vegetarian, with a distinct and much-admired cuisine.

    Vinita has married into a family long settled in Hyderabad. They still live in the 230-year-old haveli (mansion) that fills an entire block in the heart of the city. The inner city is crumbling, and so is the mansion, but Vinita, with her great sense of style, has taken up a corner of it and filled it with antique furniture and family paintings that match the half-lost frescoes on some of the walls.

    Vinita is a very popular dress designer. She has given part of the mansion over to the tailors and embroiderers she works with. She also cooks, the kitchen being right next to the room with the disappearing frescoes. She made these delicious potatoes for me as part of a dinner that included Simple Marwari-Style Peas, Mixed Dal in a Marwari Style, Marwari Layered Griddle Breads, and a yogurt dish.

    SERVES 4

    • 5–6 medium waxy potatoes (about 1 lb), boiled, cooled, and peeled
    • ¾ teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
    • ⅛–½ teaspoon nice red chili powder
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
    • Generous pinch of ground asafetida
    • ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    • 1 dried hot red chili, broken in half
    • ½ medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1½ teaspoons peeled fresh ginger, grated to a pulp
    • 1 fresh hot green chili, thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

    1. Cut the potatoes lengthwise into fat chips and put them in a bowl. Add the salt, turmeric, chili powder, and ground coriander, then (wearing plastic gloves if you wish, as turmeric can stain) mix gently so that the spices cling to the potatoes.

    2. Put the oil in a well-seasoned wok, karhai, or nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the asafetida. Two seconds later, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Throw in the broken red chili and stir for a second or two. Now add the onions and stir for a minute. Stir in the ginger and green chilies. Still on medium-high heat, add the potatoes and stir gently, lifting them from the bottom, for 4–5 minutes. The potatoes should get lightly browned. Check the salt, toss in the fresh cilantro, and mix.