Is Dal the most overlooked and undermined player in the team of food on our dining table. Most often, like a Goal keeper in football or the wicket keeper in cricket, Indian meal is incomplete without dal yet somehow, it never becomes a centre of attraction for Bengali’s where the existence of fish always dominates the meal.
When I was young, a traditional Bengali lunch would mean something bitter to start with and most of the times, it used to be Bitter gourd and its various preparations. Then followed a sabji with daal and then to the non veg dish. So dal was almost like the intermediary station to reach the destination of non Veg. Baba was not fond of dal that much as was ma and I didn’t have an opinion. Although not favourite, but Kalai or Biulir Dal (which is split white Urad dal) with its slimy texture, a dash of lemon (Gondhoraj preferably), Alu bhate (mashed potato with mustard oil) or Alu posto is what summer dreams were made of. In winters, Ma would add raddish while making this dal.
Cholar dal is integrated with luchi. Chana dal slightly tempered with whole garam malasa, leave aside everything else, this is the best possible combination on a Sunday morning. What are the Dals we Bengalis have on a daily basis? Moong and masoor alternately and sometimes chana dal or toor dal or matar dal. If we remove the traditional ones, then one dal which is worth mentioning and one can rarely find outside Kolkata or West Bengal is the Tadka Dal dhaba Style.While many may disagree with this but the improvisation of adding egg or chicken or mutton to the tadka dal makes it a speciality confined to this state.
Travelling the country – while Delhi or northern India will have Rajma Chawal as the staple diet, a Tambram meal is incomplete without Kootu or Misyal which is slow cooking ridge gourd (peerkangaai) and moong dal along with chillies and spices, later tempered using sesame/ coconut oil as Food and travel show host Rakesh Raghunathan says. Who can forget Sambar, which is an eternal favourite for the Bengalis and many a times I have seen Ma cooking that too. Dal Makhni is popular all across India and many a times a north Indian cuisine specialist restaurant is judged by its dal makhni. The story is endless.
Macher Muro diye Dal or Dal cooked with Fish head is an exciting proposition altogether. Macher muro diye dal is a grand affair and we Bengalis cannot help but add a non veg element in everything and this is what we do. Just like the Parsi loves Dhansak which is lentils and vegetables cooked with mutton, the macher muro diye dal is something which we love and make it during celebrations. In my childhood, Ma always used to have the leja or the tail portion of the fish and Baba and I used to have the body. It’s the Muro or the fish head which always had to be re engineered for effective use. Unlike other Bengali dal preparations, where there is just a few tempered spices, this is a heavy variety as it has onions, garlic, ginger and garam masala, making it quite rich. The flavour from the fish head and the thick consistency of the moong dal makes it a complete dish. Perhaps, this is the one dal which does not need any vegetables as a side to go with it. Sometimes when we make this at home, we tend to omit the regular fish curry.
The debate will always continue whether its rice or roti which makes a perfect combination for dal as with such a wide array of dal, its tough to make a perfect combination but one thing which all of us should be careful about is dal mein kala.
Thanks Rushina for celebrating this Dal Divas. It’s not for first time that she is celebrating this as she celebrated Indian masala day on May 20th and we made Panch Mishali torkari, she had also celebrated aam achaar day, Pulao Biryani day, Chai Pakora day, Chutney day (you can try out Cranberry chutney with Panch Phoron here )