This dal is one of my comfort foods. Every time I make it, the sound of the sizzling spice & the aroma reminds me of home, of my childhood…. Masoor dal used to be a staple food for me – for I rarely would want to try any other dal. Why? Because I love the flavor these special spices cooked in Mustard Oil- yes that is what is used to season this dal. If you are not aware, traditionally most of the recipes in Bengal use mustard oil for cooking. It cannot be denied that the flavor that mustard oil adds can not be replaced with any other substitute. To season this recipe, you would need a very little of the oil- & I would warn that this would not taste the same without this particular combination of Mustard Oil & the Panch Foron (very commonly used spice mix in Bengal to temper lentils & vegetables….I have explained that later in the post).
In Bengal, most of the times vegetarian means there would be absolutely no use of onion or garlic. There are lots of recipes which are cooked all vegetarian, this being one of them. Another ingredient that perfects the taste of this dal is a teensy bit of sugar. Well everyone knows that the Bongs have a sweet tooth, however the addition of sugar here is not to make it sweet, but for the balance of taste. Once cooked you will not taste the sugar, I promise.
This is a fairly easy thing to prepare. It is as healthy as all lentils are… so if you like it like I do, you can indulge guilt free. Traditionally this dal is accompanied with hot White Rice, Crispy Shoe String Potato Fries & Fried Eggplans/Brinjal (Begun Bhaja) & a salad made out of Cucumber, Tomato & Onions thinly sliced & sprinkled with some salt & lemon juice… among other things.
- 1/2 Cup Split Red Lentils or Masoor Dal
- 1 Medium sized Tomato chopped or blended
- 1 Teaspoon Turmeric
- 1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
- 2 Hot Green Chilies (like Serrano or Thai Bird) – Slit
- 2 Dry Red Chili Pepper
- 2 Teaspoon Panch Foron*** (See Note)
- 2 Teaspoon Mustard Oil (can use any Cooking Oil or Ghee or Butter)
- 1/2 Fresh Lemon
- Fresh Chopped Cilantro/Coriander Leaves for Garnish
*** Note: This is a combination of 5 spices in equal quantities. For the Authentic Taste, do not skip any of the spices, for each of them lend their own flavor & taste. The seeds of the spices should be all kept whole, not ground into a powder. Here are the spices for Panch Phoron/Foron:
- Radhuni/ (if no Radhuni, use Mustard/Rai)
- Kalonji/Kala Jeera/Nigella
Wash the lentils till water runs clear.
Boil in water the first 7 ingredients (Lentils, tomato, turmeric, salt, sugar, green chili) till Soft & Mushy. You can either pressure cook it, which is obviously the fastest way or can cover & cook till done. It will not have completely dried out. The quantity will more than double in the consistency of puree. If required add more hot water while cooking.
Set aside once done.
Heat the Mustard Oil. Add the Red Dry Chili Peppers & the Panch Foron. These will start to sizzle & will start getting fragrant.
Immediately pour all of it over the Lentils. Stir it in. (Alternately you can add the Boiled Lentils in the same pan with the Panch Foron, & simmer for about 10 minutes… this adds more flavor).
Squeeze Fresh Lemon & Garnish with Cilantro/Coriander Leaves.
Serve with Hot White Rice, Or Rotis or just have a warm bowl soup.
Sending this to MLLA:Eighth Helping hosted by Susan (of The Well Seasoned Cook) herself & Think Spice: Mastic Gum or Fennel Seeds hosted by Ivy of Kopiaste to Greek Hospitality, & started by Sunita of Sunita’s World.