Bengalis are pretty divided between Ghoti|Bangal, Kancha Lonka|Shukno Lonka, Dalna|Jhaal, Mohun Bagan|East Bengal, and not to mention their use of sugar in everyday cooking.
If it makes any sense to you, I am a Ghoti with strong leanings towards Bangal cuisine. But I will keep it West Bengal here today with this traditional Dhoka’r Dalna. Essentially a curry made out of ground Bengal Gram/ Chana Dal fritters.
This is a vegetarian recipe I grew up on. Its my first time and hopefully not the last. This recipe is pretty involved and needs three steps to reach to the final dish.
The ingredients for Dhoka’r Dalna are:
2 cups Bengal Gram/ Chana Dal/ Cholar Dal soaked overnight
1 large ripe tomato chopped
2 medium size potatoes skin off diced
4-5 green chilies slit
3-4 tablespoons ginger paste
1 teaspoon asafetida powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2-3 teaspoons red chili powder
2 teaspoons turmeric powder
2 teaspoons black pepper powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
Oil, vegetable or mustard
Grind the soaked dal to something in between a fine to coarse consistency, adding very little water. In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoon oil and add the asafetida powder and then ground dal. Add 2 tablespoons ginger paste, 1 teaspoon each of red chili and turmeric powder. Season with salt and sugar. We do not need to fry this mixture, but just cook till the raw taste of the lentils disappear.
Spread this dal mixture on a clean dinner plate while its hot. Evenly spread it out with a flat wooden spoon. Let it cool down. Cut square shapes or diamonds with a knife on the flattened dal mixture.
Heat half cup oil in a wok and deep fry the dal squares/ diamonds till they are nice and crispy. Almost golden brown.
In the remaining oil, lightly fry the diced potatoes.
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaf and let it temper for a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes. Let them release all the juices, a little help with the back of a spoon will only do them good.
Once the tomato is getting mushy, add the red chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, black pepper powder and the garam masala powder. Add 2 tablespoon ginger paste and keep stirring. All this needs low heat and patience. When you see the spices all mixed up nice, add the slit green chilies. Add enough water which can later drench the dal badas and the already fried potatoes. Add the potato cubes once you see the gravy of tomato and spices boiling. Let them cook for till they get soft. Add the fried dal squares. Cook them till they soak some of the juices. Season with salt and sugar. The Dhoka’r Dalna is a balance of sweet and savory, so adjust the taste accordingly.
The Dhoka’r Dalna is a part of a traditional Bengali spread, usually an all-vegetarian fare. Serve it with white rice and a smear of desi ghee.