Anumita, our Managing Editor, shares a traditional Bengali vegetarian cuisine, Dhoka r Dalna (gravy of Lentil Dumplings). There are numerous vegetarian recipes in the Bengali cuisine, quite contrary to the belief that Bengalis just eat fish. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Vegetarian dishes in a Bengali home would mean excluding not only all meat and fish but also avoiding the use of onion and garlic during its preparation. Growing up in a joint family with grandparents, aunts, uncles and many cousins, I often found that religious celebrations were a combined effort in the family. Other than the ceremony, food was the focal point.
We cousins often joined in some of the other puja or vrath (fasting) because it had some delicious vegetarian food to offer. There are numerous vegetarian recipes in the Bengali cuisine, quite contrary to the belief that Bengalis eat just fish. Yes, we love to eat fish, but we do consume other food too.
Most of the vegetarian recipes are labour intensive, and so very intimidating for me. I have very rarely tried most of these dishes, but the day I carve for them, I pull down my chef’s hat and make them. One such recipe is the Dhoka r Dalna (gravy of Lentil Dumplings).
Dhoka is basically cutlets made from ground lentils. These are delicious like snacks or with dal and rice. The Dalna is the gravy in which theDhoka is simmered to make it a complete dish. A savory spicy gravy with these fried dumplings hit the right spot of gluttonous pleasure when had with hot rice.
Sharing this labour intensive spicy dish with you all, and I am sure you will love it.
Prep time: 1 hour Cook Time: 1 hour
Cuisine: Bengali (Indian) Type: Main Dish (Vegetarian)
1 cup Chana Dal (Split Bengal Gram)
½ cup Matar Dal (Dried Peas)
10 Green chillies
Salt to taste
½ cumin seeds
1tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
1tsp ground roasted coriander seeds
2 tsp garam masala
2 tomatoes, chopped fine
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ cup of whipped yogurt
1/2 cup whey (the water of plain yogurt)
Grind them with a pinch of salt, ginger root, cumin seeds, whey and green chillis.
Keep the batter aside for an hour.
Then heat a drizzle of oil in a flat bottom nonstick pan.
Pour the batter into it and keep stirring till it forms into a thick dough.
Grease a big plate and pour the dough into it.
With your fingertips flatten the dough to an inch high.
Heat oil in a deep pan. Add enough oil to deep fry these pieces.
Fry on medium heat till golden brown and place them on paper towels to soak access oil.
These Dhoka squares are enjoyable as a snack or with hot rice and dal.
To make the gravy, heat 2 tsp oil and add chopped tomato and green chillies.
Stir in the spices and tomatoes get into a paste-like form.
Add the whipped yogurt and some hot water.
Stir, add the fresh peas.
Once the gravy starts boiling, reduce heat and add the Dhoka squares.
Let it all simmer for a minute or two on low heat.
Then garnish it with fresh cilantro and serve with white rice.
Enjoy Dhoka r Dalna, a traditional vegetarian dish of Bengal.
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos by the author
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Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.