Dal in everyday life
There are few things that we cannot compromise as an Indian. Dal is one such food. Ask anyone about the combination of dal and rice or dal roti. Most will say – nothing else is needed. An integral part yet often, not the main protagonist. Indians have such a rich treasure of the variety as well as recipes across various regions. No other culture has that. But this is not about the deep-dive analysis of dal. It is about the celebration of everyday dal, especially masoor dal or red lentil. And this peyaj diye masoor dal or red lentils cooked with onions is a very comforting Bengali recipe.
Every household will have its own stories on dal. I can share one from Anindya’s home. One of his Mama used to love Dal more than any other food. After marriage, this did not go well for the new bride of the house. Much later, in some closed family gathering, she picked this up in front of everyone and mentioned – seems my husband knows only one way of eating- mix up everything with Dal. He never appreciates any other delicacy I cook.
Dal in Bengali cuisine
Contrary to popular notion, we eat dal every day. Our meals are incomplete without dal. Fish is also an integral part of our everyday meal. However, there are days when we go vegetarian (not more than once or max, twice a week). Vegetarian or not, dal is a must. Having said that, our dals play a second fiddle. They are runny in consistency, much like a soup and play the perfect middle order in the meal. The most commonly used dal are masoor dal and moong. Biulir dal or urad dal without the husk is mainly a summer delicacy. Matar dal also features time and again and chhana dal or chholar dal is meant for Sundays or special occasions. Also, one point to be mentioned is that the variety of moong and masoor dal in Bengal is different. They are small in size.
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The love for peyaj diye masoor dal
We call it this dal peyaj mushurir dal. Masoor dal can be cooked in many ways. The usual quick way of making the everyday masoor dal Bengali way is with a tempering of nigella seeds and green chilies, salt and turmeric powder. Some add tomatoes and some don’t. However, when we talk about comforting dal, it is the one made with onions. Peyaj diye masoor dal is perfect for a hot summer day. It is equally heartening on a cold winter afternoon. There is a hint of garlic and that along with the soft onion slices provides the perfect texture to this soupy pyaz masoor dal. All you need is a little bit of mashed potato or alu bhaja on the side and rice. That would be the best meal ever.
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Peyaj Diye Masoor Dal | Bengali Masoor Dal with Onions
- ½ cup masoor dal
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- 1 large onion
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- ½ tomato
- 2-3 green chilies
- 1 tbsp mustard oil you can use any vegetable oil as well
- salt to taste
- coriander leaves for garnish
- Wash the dal under running water till the water is clear and all the dust has washed away.
- In a pressure cooker or a saucepan, boil the dal with turmeric powder and salt and double the quantity of water.
- Slice the onions and chop the tomato. Crush the garlic cloves.
- Once the dal has boiled (it should hold shape but has softened), take a kadai and heat mustard oil.
- Add the sliced onions and crushed garlic. Let them soften over medium heat. Don't brown the onions. Just let the onion slices cook (sweating is the right term).
- Once they are soft, add the chopped tomato and stir fry. Add red chili powder and let the tomato cook for four to five minutes. Then pour the dal with all the water.
- You will probably need to add more water since this has quite a runny consistency.
- Adjust salt. You can also sprinkle a little bit of sugar if you want to.
- Finally, add slit green chilies and a handful of chopped coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.