Haryana Dal Maharani – India through dal

Last year, I splurged on a new genre of books – books on food! Not just the ones that share a recipe but rather food memoirs. I absolutely adore stories of childhood that takes the reader through the food and memories around them, of mango trees climbed, that secret recipe for that kheer, that festive meal with loved ones, of favourites dishes at cousin’s place and bottled pickles that you hoarded back from a visit to grandma. I could go on. A dish means more when I know a story behind it, the person who made it or some memory associated with it. While food stories and food history has always been fascinating, I am now in a phase where I am really enjoying cooking and learning little tips and tricks from different people and creating my own memories and evoking a bit of my own childhood. This also helps me appreciate food outside and I feel inspired to come back and try to recreate a dish or add my own twist to it. And trust me, this is not who I was a few years ago. And I am loving this side to myself where I cook to evoke memories and to create some.

And that is why, I think it is time, time to start the dal series. I have been sharing a couple on my instagram already but I do want to document them here, ofcourse.  First on the list is this adaptation of Haryana Dal Maharani by Krishna Dutta. This is one of the books from my stash which is not really a food memoir but an account where the author talks of dal from different parts of India. This book has also been a big inspiration behind my series. There are definitely some overlaps between the regions but it is super interesting to see how dal as a dish has undergone so much influence and personalisation over the years and across India so much that, we are unaware of how many varieties of the humble toor or masoor dal are made everyday. This book may have just scratched the surface and I do plan to write about it in detail once I have tried a fair share of recipes so I will keep this short for now.

When I came across this recipe, I was quite tickled because I have not found any recipe on the internet that shares a recipe similar to this as a Haryanvi recipe. I decided to give it a go on one of the weekends. I did make a make a couple of minor twists to the original recipe. Even though the recipe uses exact proportions, I’d like to believe that cooking is  intuitive and one that really reflects what the cook fancies in that instant so I will keep the ingredient portions pretty open but rather just share the technique/ procedure.Feel free to tweak and play with it as your heart desires. After all, what is cooking if not impulsive?

Dal/ lentil type:  Toor dal, masoor dal (whole).

I used:

Toor dal + masoor dal (about 2 cups); ginger and garlic finely minced or pound (you can use a paste), tomatoes, onions, asafoetida/hing, chilli powder, turmeric powder, about 2 tbsp yoghurt mixed with a pinch of brown sugar/ jaggery (you can skip it if sweetness isn’t your thing), slit green and/or whole dried red chillies, cumin, butter/ghee and salt to taste.

I did:

  • Cooked the dal in a deep saucepan, removed the froth/ scum that rose to the surface.
  • Reduced the heat, covered and simmered until it cooked.
  • Meanwhile I melted some butter/ghee, spluttered cumin, sautéed half of minced ginger-garlic, a couple of slit green chillies, added onions and fried until light brown. I then added asafoetida and gave it a mix.
  • Added the rest of ginger-garlic mince and mixed for a minute.
  • Added tomatoes, chilli powder, turmeric powder and fried until aromatic.
  • Tipped the cooked lentils into this, mixed well and simmered for 8-10 minutes. Turned the stove off, added yoghurt blended with sugar/ just yoghurt and gave it a good whisk (I really just added a teeny pinch as we are not fond of sweetness in our otherwise savoury dishes). Garnish with sauteed chopped green chillies and a bit of garlic.

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We enjoyed this dal with  rice and some tortilla wraps and it paired well with both. I felt like the addition of the yoghurt with some sugar was something unique to this recipe and one that I had not done before. Also, I usually pressure cook the dal and to cook this in a saucepan and removing the froth was a first timer for me. I see so many explanations for this on the internet some of which look pretty dubious to me so I will refrain from adding my own explanation until I get some clear answer (please do share your thoughts if you know more about this). But it looks like it does not affect the taste much so pressure-cooking should be fine too.

Have you tried this version yet? Is there a different way of making a Haryanvi dal? I’d love to know. Isn’t it wonderful how your kitchen can take you places and bring to you some of those joys that you seek on your travels?

The Bun-Man

Beeeeeeeeeeep. Trrrrrrrrrrr.

The sound jolted her out of her sleep. She knew the sound too well. For the past few days, she had been looking forward to it. Infact, 5 P.M. became associated with the sound and the familiar sight that had now become perfunctory. It was a sight that one could watch on forever. It exuded love, warmth and oodles of unbinding and yet the most loyal affection and belonging. So much so that everyone stopped their evening walk and stood transfixed to watch the scene as though mesmerized at the very sight of it. It happened daily but nobody seemed to mind.

From her window, she could see the luna stop right infront of their red gates. An elderly man in the same grey tee and blue tracks got off it. Oblivious of the now gathered mini-crowd around his, he carefully untied the huge plastic sack that he had had meticulously tied to his handle and held between the legs as he rode the luna. A big big sack.

She could see that now the windows of every first floor and second floor were open and many pairs of awestruck eyes peered through the multi-coloured grills. Little kids stuck out their podgy little fingers through them and tried to get as much of their head out as possible. Some ran out to the balcony but not making a sound because nobody wanted to disturb such a beautiful sight. Nope. Not a sound.

She saw that the road was now getting more crowded. Not by people so much. But those who waited for his arrival loyally everyday started to come out from every nook of the locality. She wondered why she hadn’t seen even half of them during the day.

They came to him from all directions. Those new ones with beseeching eyes, the ones with charming eyes, the ones with brown coats, the ones that had just recovered from marismus (she didn’t know what they called it though), the ones that look plump but never seemed to have had enough anyways, the ones with the snow white coats, the black coated round-eyed ones, the little ones that wagged their tail so much that the tails seemed to fall off, the pregnant mothers – everyone was here.

He lovingly opened the packet and with a firm and yet tender voice, he said “hirrup boys! Come get them” and pulled out the buns one by one, divided them into 4 pieces and played a catch game with each member around him. How he managed to have so many buns to feed the increasing mouths without disappointing a single one baffled her. How could he know how many extras he needed?

And how he divided the bun into pieces ! It looked as though he could perfectly divide them so that every chap there got the right piece and none was made to feel less loved.

She loved the way his hands, firm and gentle all at once played with them. She loved the way how this one small sight that lasted about 20 minutes united the otherwise busy neighbourhood. She loved how every mother promised to show this piece of heaven to their child every morning to entice them into going to school.

She prayed to God that the greying man should never die and continue to captivate everyone through this small act.

The dogs loved him. They reciprocated their love for him through hidden smiles, love-struck eyes and the gentlest nudges. They smiled and nodded in approval. It was their time of the day.

The bun-man had come.

P.S. This is one my most treasured memories from my childhood. To this day, he is easily one of my most favourite human beings in the whole universe.