Sometime back I had to go to the city every day during the work week. Now unlike Bee and like Nabeela, I am not a city girl. Though we live a commutable distance away we hardly drop in to be a part of the city crowd. We are happy with our quiet green neighborhood and the proximity to the “Big Apple” has not rubbed the city life on us.
However I do not grudge the rare trips I need to make. I like to wait for the bus on a crisp morning and also love the fact that I can get an hour & half sleep while in it. I think I sleep a pretty deep sleep on the bus with my mouth open and even softly snoring. It leaves me pretty refreshed, and I don’t think anyone minds because most of the bus is doing the same.
Ok but this not about my sleeping habits so let’s not digress. The one thing I like about these early morning occasional ventures is the stores in the city. No, I am not talking of Saks 5th Avenue. I am talking of the small ineffable stores wedged between the tall structures, keeping a brave front, trying to hold on to their uniqueness of not being a part of a chain. I wonder what they sell. I see a sign saying “Lotto” and I try to peer through the thick bus window. I think I see a counter running through the length of the stores and I remember….
Yes, it reminds me of “Maulbi Saab ki Dukan”* just opposite to my school bus stop, my one stop shop for all my stationery needs for most of my school years. I remember Maulbi Saab in his checked blue-green lungi , white fez cap and almost luminescent white beard standing behind a counter that ran across the center of his shop. The counter kept the customers far removed from the merchandise and in turn gave Maulbi Saab an all encompassing power. I had to wait patiently for my turn for the Maulbi Saab or his grandson to be free and then I would ask for the Royal Blue Chelpark ink that I needed. I could not sample the Sulekha Violet ink if I wanted to or rummage through the crisp notebooks on display far from me.
The limitations of these choices mad me satisfied with what I needed alone and taught me not to go looking for stuff beyond my needs.
A lesson long forgotten when I hoard unknown boxes of spices and trifles, I don’t intend to use, just because I have an easy access to them.
It's not that I don’t love the choices a departmental store gives me, I do love the independence. But when I madly rummage through the aisles of Wal-Mart looking for a particular Dora kiddie water bottle, a part of me still yearns for the green shuttered Maulbi Saab’s Dukan and the polite Maulbi Saab in his blue-green checked lungi and white fez and I wish I could just go up and say “Ek Dora Purple & Pink Water Bottle dijiyega”** and come back home happy.
* a store run by the Maulbi** Give me a Dora Pink & Purple water bottle
But lets go back to the Dal I made today. Kalai er Dal is a dal made of split white (skin removed) Urad Dal, very typically Bengali and also a favorite in many Bengali homes.
Kalai er Dal with Alu Posto or Alu Seddho (mashed potatoes with a dash of mustard oil) is the best thing that can happen to you during a lulled summer afternoon lunch. Flavored with Ada-Mouri bata (a paste of ginger and fennel seeds) this sweet smelling dal can take two different avtaars. If you do not roast the urad dal and cook this Dal, it tends to get a bit slimy. Many people do not like the slippery texture though I loved it.
If you dry roast the dal before you cook it though, the slimy texture is gone and you get the flavorful dal without the slippery feeling.
This dal is best enjoyed with white rice. In a Bengali home it is served with alu posto or alu seddho and is typically served during a quiet lunch for the family. Usually not part of a menu for a larger audience it is for a quiet meal with the close family.
Alu Posto - is a dish made with potato and a paste of poppy seeds. Recipe is here. It can be found in both Bengali & Oriya cuisine
Alu Seddho - is a Bengali style mashed potato to which finely chopped onion, green chillies and a dash of mustard oil is added
What You Need
Split White Urad Dal ~ 1 cup
Green Chillies ~ 4-5
Hing or Asafetida ~ ½ tsp
Mouri or Fennel Seeds ~ 5 heaped tsp
Ginger ~ 2" piece
Grind the above with a little water to make a paste
Ada-Mouribata ( a wet paste of Ginger and Fennel Seeds) ~ 5-6 tsp heaped of the prepared paste. Bee's comment made me write this. The paste I make may yield a bit more than 6 tsp of paste. I usually make this paste and refrigerate it for later use, so follow the measure given for the paste while cooking.
Water ~ 3 & ½ cups for boiling the Dal in pressure cooker and 1 cup later
How I Do It
Dry roast the Urad Dal till you get a fine roasted smell and about 50% of the lentils turn a light brown. Wash the roasted Dal. If you do not want to roast it, you can skip this step.
Pressure Cook the Urad Dal with almost 3 times the water and about 1/2 a tsp of Turmeric powder. When it’s cooked lightly mix it with a wire whisk Do not mash it up. It may take 6-7 minutes to get done after the pressure build up.
Wet grind the Fennel seeds and the Ginger to a fine paste
Heat Oil in Kadhai. I used Mustard Oil, but you can use Canola or any other White Oil too
Add the slit Green Chillies and the Asafetida
Add the wet paste of fennel and ginger which we Bengalis refer to as ada-mouri bata
Fry the paste for a little while, and when you get the sweet smell of the masala
add the dal.
Add about 1 cup of water, salt and let it cook
This is not a very thick dal so check the consistency accordingly.
Enjoy it with White Rice, Alu Posto and some Bhaja (Fried Veggie friters). Alu Posto recipe is here.
For the recipe of this Dal and more Get my book hitting the stores soon.
Trivia: Urad Dal is very nutritious and is recommended for diabetics, as are other pulses. Though very beneficial in limited quantities excessive intake causes flatulence, which some sources claim can be prevented by adding a little asafoetida, pepper and ginger in the cultinary preparations.
The product sold as "black lentil" is usually the whole urad bean or urad dal. The product sold as "white lentil" is the same lentil with the black skin removed.(Source: Wiki)