I may be a delayer of promise, but I’m not a breaker of promise. I was too bogged down last month with different issues that raised their heads from oblivion. I cooked no doubt, but mostly from whatever ingredients I had at home, and the impetus and inspiration to follow a month-long series, planning and organising it, was just not there. However, I do remember the promise I made to you here of serving Bangali food for an entire month. I’ve lost out on full 30 days, but really, we’ve just stepped into Pujo month (yes, of course I mean Durga Pujo. It’s blasphemous to call it Durga Pujo. Pujo means Durga Pujo), and what better time than the run up to the hysteric festivity-soaked 4 days to present to you some mindblowing Bong delicacies? So gear up guys, because it’s that month when all you will do is Eat Like a Bong, when foodilicious extravaganza and maddening festivity will take over your senses and transport you to the world of a Bong, resplendent in the countdown to his favourite festival!
First up on our menu is the quintessential Bong favourite Chholar Dal. This is not your regular masoor or moong dal. You make this when you have guests over or when your heart desires something basic yet fancy. Chholar dal can be most typically associated with Puja. Jazzed up by raisins and coconuts, this dal is served with luchi or radhaballabhi at every food stall adjacent to a pujo pandal.
To be fair, I’m not much of a Chholar Dal fan, primarily because I don’t like my aloor torkari with luchi to be hijacked by any dal. I’m a mean potato-holic, out and out. Probably I could’ve loved Chholar Dal more had it not barged into a plateful of phulko luchi everytime and ousted my favourite alu dam. But I’m not like those vendors or stall-holders. I prefer to be impartial. Just as I won’t betray you in presenting the grandest dal that a Bong is bloody proud of, I won’t allow my alu dam to get neglected in the process. So fry up those luchis because the Narkel Kishmish diye Chholar Dal is almost ready. Devour it now and I’ll be back with some Alu Dum tomorrow. 🙂
Chholar dal/ split Bengal gram: 220 gm (soaked in 2 1/2 cups water overnight)
Turmeric powder: 1 tsp
Mustard oil: 2 tbsp
Bay leaf: 1
Cumin seeds: 3/4 tsp
Green chillies, slit: 2
Ginger paste: 1 1/2 tsp
Coconut pieces, diced finely: 3 tbsp
Raisins: 2 tbsp + for garnish
Cinnamon stick: 1
Cardamom pods: 6
Kashmiri red chillies: 2
1. In a pressure cooker, add the dal, turmeric powder and salt with just enough water to cover it. Don’t add too much water for that will hinder the lentils from cooking. Cook on high heat for 3 whistles. Set aside and let the cooker open on its own.
2. Bring out the seeds from the green cardamom pods. In a frying pan, add the cinnamon stick, chillies and cardamom seeds. Dry-fry on low heat for 5 minutes or so till it starts releasing aroma. Cool and grind into fine powder in a mortal-pestle or blender. Set aside.
3. In a heavy-bottomed pan/kadhai, heat the mustard oil , add the bay leaf and cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds. Now add the green chillies and ginger paste and stir for a minute. Add the diced coconut and fry till they turn golden brown.
4. Pour in the cooked dal and stir well to mix it with the coconut pieces. Cover and cook on medium high till some of the water reduces to give rise to a thickish consistency. Add the raisins and then simmer on a low heat for another 5 minutes.
5. Sprinkle over the ground spice mix, add sugar and salt (if required). Cook for a further 2 minutes. Garnish with remaining raisins and serve with piping hot luchis or holud polau (recipe coming up soon!).