You must have heard many a time, that “Good things come in small packages”. Also in matters of creativity, Leonardo da Vinci had once said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication!” Cooking being too a form of creative art, the most delicious food-items are often the simplest ones!
Despite this fact, we tend to always ignore the simpler daily dishes from our home kitchen, against the most popular biryanis, fried-rice, chickens, muttons, chow mein, Tikkas, kebabs, etc.
Masoor dal comes in 2 forms – Brown-skinned and Red/Orange (i.e. polished) – and is available in all the Indian grocery stores and supermarkets in your neighborhood, since it is cooked as a staple item for lunch and dinner in a majority of Indian households . It’s cooked in various ways and sometimes cooked together with other lentils too.
The masoor dal is preferred as boiled and in an optimally cooked form. Over boiling loses the taste of Masoor dal. You can cook this dal by using many different spices. But the simpler, Bengali way of cooking this dal is by adding black-cumin seeds and dry red-chili or by adding onions with dry red-chillies to the boiled dal.
Here’s how you can get the best taste out of a simple recipe of masoor dal – straight after my mother’s training on it.
- 1/2 cup masoor dal
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup cooking oil
- 1/2 onion – finely chopped OR ¼ tsp black cumin-seeds or “kaalo-jeeray” in Bengali
- 2-3 dry red-chillies for sautéing
- 2 green chillies finely-chopped
- 2 tomatoes; finely-chopped
- 1 bunch coriander, finely-chopped
- Rinse masoor dal thoroughly in a large bowl containing water; rinse it well until you get to see clear water.
- Prepare the “chhonk” now. Chhonk is also called “phoron” in Bengali. This is done by heating the oil in medium-flame for 2 minutes, followed by sautéing the black cumin-seeds, garam masala powder and the dry red-chillies for one more minute in the heated oil.
- (If you’re using onions instead of the black-cumin seeds, then sauté for about 5 minutes.)
- Next fill a pot with sufficient water to boil and pour the washed masoor dal.
- Add the turmeric powder and salt (as per taste) to the boiled dal and stir very well.
- Next add the chopped green-chillies to the mixture and stir again
- Now add this boiled dal mixture to the chhonk, add the chopped tomatoes and stir it well, until the water evaporates.
- When the gravy thickens, add some more water and keep cooking until the color of water turns yellow and the tomato softens, giving a nice flavor to the dal, releasing an appetizing aroma.
- Once the dal softens and the gravy has become semi-thick, add the chopped coriander leaves. Do taste it and add more salt if it’s needed.
This is the simplest way of cooking masoor dal. Instead of black-cumin you can use the onions and cook exactly the same way – as I do always.
Masoor Dal tastes very delicious and appetizing if savored with steaming rice and a teaspoon of clarified butter (ghee) and fried potatoes. However this meal is unthinkable without crispy “daler bora” – or Lentil fritters. But I’ll talk about this in a later post. Watch this space!
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