Cholar Dal and Luchi are inseparable. I have often wondered what makes Cholar Dal so desirable? Isn’t it like any other dal? In the larger classification, it’s a chana dal. For the last few days, we have been discussing about Dal across India. It’s Dal Divas. A brainchild of Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, you can learn a lot about this from this post of hers. With every passing year, the celebration gets bigger and this year, it is not a single day but an 11-day long celebration. In the past, we have made Kancha tomato diye Musoor Dal, Bengali Style Moong dal with vegetables but it’s not even the tip of the iceberg of dals used.
Why not so many dal in the blog?
While on a discussion with Rushina on the Dal and various dals of Bengal, we once again realised that we have very few entries of Dal on our blog. A week-long discussion between various culinary experts across the country threw up two things – One each of us have a story related to Dal and the culinary diversity of India often overshadows the fact that how we are united through an invisible thread of food. There are many homes where various dals are made on a daily basis. Dal is an inevitable part of the meal.
Fancy dals, regular dals and then Cholar dal
We have moong dal, masoor dal, arhar dal and dhuli urad dal on a regular basis. Also, our dals are slightly runny. They act as a perfect accompaniment with steamed rice and nimbu. The focus remains on spending less effort on the dal than the other food on the menu. Then there are days when dal gets lucky. As an exception, full bodied dals are made which are meal in itself. One of the best example and a very popular one is Macher Muro diye dal or Dal with Fish head. We made this earlier and then again during the Dal Divas, Madhushree made this live. However, there was no cholar dal.
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Cholar dal is in an elite class
Just like Macher muro diye dal which is made on special occasions, Cholar dal is preserved for celebrations. Durga Pujo Ashtami evening, small family gatherings, marriage ceremonies, luchi and cholar dal makes a perfect beginning.
In my growing up years in Chandannagore, I don’t remember any sweet shop selling Kochuri with chholar dal. I checked once again while writing for this and few places which serve cholar dal are runny and with potato cubes to make it look heavy-bodied. I personally love the small chunks of coconut, light fried to pink adorning my narkel diye cholar dal. The commercial establishments often make the Cholar dal slightly runny with potato cubes infused. many may raise an objection to this. Putiram in college street, famous for its cholar dal serves the same in thermocol plates and with a strong flavour of ghee but sweet in taste. The one which we made it here, we also added Kishmish or raisins to enhance the sweetness. Yes, may not be for all occasions and takes little more time to boil but chholar dal still remains much coveted.
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Narkel Diye Cholar Dal
- 1/2 cup Bengal gram cholar dal/ chana dal
- 1/3 cup raisins optional
- 1/2 coconut optional
- 2 nos dried bayleaf
- 1/2 inch cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 nos green cardamom
- 3 nos cloves
- 1 pinch asafoetida heeng
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 2 nos dried red chilies
- 1/2 inch grated ginger
- 2-3 nos green chilies
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Wash chana dal under running water and then keep it soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
- Then in a pressure cooker, take the dal with 1 and 1/2 cups of water, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and a little bit of salt and pressure cook for 10 minutes or 1 whistle. If you don't want to use a pressure cooker, then boil in a saucepan till the dal has softened while holding shape.
- While the dal is boiling, take half a coconut and cut out the white flesh. Cut the flesh into long strips and then cut them into small thin strips.
- In a bowl, take freshly grated ginger, 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder, red chili powder and cumin powder. Add a little bit of water to make a paste and keep it ready.
- In a kadai, take a tbsp of ghee and vegetable oil together. Once it's hot, add the chopped coconuts and stir fry without browning.
- Once they have got a mild colour, take them out with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
- In the same oil, fry the raisins and keep aside.
- In the same kadai, add dried bay leaf, dry red chillies, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom one by one. If you feel the need, add more ghee but it doesn't require much ghee at all.
- Let them colour a bit and release aroma. Then add cumin seeds and a pinch of heeng and stir fry without burning. So keep the heat at medium while doing this step. Cumin seed brown really quick.
- To this, add the masala paste from the bowl and quickly stir to cook the spices. As soon as the raw turmeric smell goes off, add the boiled chana dal.
- Add another half a cup of water (if required) and put it on a boil. Let the dal boil with the spices. Add the raisins and coconuts.
- Keep cooking till you have reached a nice mushy consistency. Using the back of a ladle, mash some dal at the bottom of the kadai, which helps in the consistency.
- Add sugar and salt to taste. Finally add ghee and split green chillies for flavour.
- Serve with luchi or rice.