'Ratala' which is the Marathi name for 'Sweet Potato' is a starchy root vegetable. It is relatively low in calories and has no fat or cholesterol. It is rich in beta-carotene, and has five times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. It is also loaded with potassium. More on the Sweet Potato here.
When I first came to the US, I had great confusion regarding this vegetable. I am sure you are curious as to why...well, I knew this vegetable as 'Ratala' in my native language and as 'Sweet Potato' in English. So whats the problem, right? The problem was that the Sweet Potato is called 'Yam' in the US of A and the 'Yam' as Sweet Potato! So much confusion! Finally, I turned to a source which I knew would not let me down...Google, and as was expected got all the answers I needed. What a happy ending! :)
Moving on...'Ratala' for Maharashtrians is always associated with fasting (Upaas). It is one of the few vegetables that is allowed to be consumed during a fast.Some of the few days when a majority of Maharashtrians observe a fast are Ekadashi, Mahashivratri, Sankashti chaturthi, etc...
When I was growing up, I used to love it when my mom & dad were fasting. There were two good reasons for this; one, I would not have to eat poli- bhaaji (chapati -vegetable), and two, the spread that was laid out on the table during a fast was much more delicious...there used to be 'ratalyacha kees', sabudana (sago) khichadi, 'kakdichi koshimbir' (cucumber salad), 'daanyacha ladoo' (peanut laddoo-- I will post this recipe soon), 'upaasachi batata bhaaji' (stir- fried potato)...I think you get the picture. All the dishes were generally cooked in homemade ghee and the minimal of spices were used, mainly, green chillies cumin seeds and salt! It was a feast in itself!!! And I am sure you are wondering as to why is this called a 'Fast'? ;) But we have a saying to justify our behaviour, 'Ekadashi ani duppat khaashi' , which simply means that during a fast, people eat double of what they normally would eat. I must warn you though, that eating huge quantities of these dishes on a single day might give you a little bit of acidity due to the generous use of crushed peanuts.
My husband and me both enjoy these recipes frequently even if we are not fasting. They sometimes make for a quick breakfast or brunch and are always delicious. So today, as part of Nupur's 'R' of Indian Vegetables, I am going to share my recipe for 'Ratalyacha Kees' which is nothing but stir-fried grated Sweet Potato. This recipe is also going for 'RCI- Maharashtrian Cuisine'.
Ratali (Sweet Potatoes) 2
Jeera (Cumin seeds) 1 tsp
Hirvi Mirchi (Green chillies) 2-3 chopped
Crushed peanut powder 1 -2 tbsp
Oil / Saajuk Tup (ghee) 1 tbsp
Salt as per taste
Kothimbir (Cilantro) to garnish
Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly, wipe them dry with a cloth and then grate them. You can either peel the skin off or leave it. I generally do not peel off the skin. Make sure that if you are not going to cook the grated sweet potatoes immediately, cover them with water like this...
In a pan/kadhai, heat the oil/ghee. Add the jeera and then the green chillies. Fry for a minute or so, and then add the grated sweet potatoes (make sure to squeeze out the water from the potatoes before adding to the pan). Mix well, cover with a lid and cook for about 3-4 minutes till white steam escapes from the pan. Once cooked, add the crushed peanut powder (make sure the peanuts are roasted), and salt to taste. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot. To enjoy it even more, serve a little plain yogurt on the side.