Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mator Dal ar Begun Bhaja


The Earth's population will surge to EIGHT BILLION by 2025. With increase in population comes an increased demand of food. When this surging population consumes more food that it is able to produce, food prices skyrocket as it did last year.

While we balked at the rice price last year we also gradually became accustomed to it. It is not the same for all people though, higher food prices push more people towards poverty. A's nanny says in Bangladesh food prices are so high that it is hard for the middle class to feed themselves unless one member of the family works in the western world and thus earns high wages.

To meet rising food demand, intellectuals say we need another Green Revolution, the kind that doubled the grain production in Asia especially India during the 60s and 70s. Really ? Aren't theHigh-yield grain varieties, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and the works that worked wonders at the time showing there wrath now. Why do you think villages in Punjab, our one time 'bread basket' are suffering the wraths of cancer today ?

A Greener Revolution may work better says an UN Panel. Duh ? Sustainable farming methods such as composting, crop rotation and interplanting with legumes has been proved to better soil quality, increase yield and reduce reliance on synthetic fertilizers.

An interesting low cost project in norther Malawi in Africa, SFHC (Soil, Food and Healthy Comunities project) distributes legume seeds, recipes and technical advice for growing crops like peanut, pigeon peas and soy bean which enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen while enriching the diet as well. Farmers there say, that by crop rotation they have increased yield and cut down fertilizer usage by half.

The projects hogging the limelight however are those by the big shot foundations which focus on bringing Green Revolution to Africa with subsidized farming programs, fertilizers and hybrid seeds. (Source: NatGeo)

Which model will prevail will depend on the powers pushing them. But whatever it is, the surging masses needs to be fed and if that can be achieved with a lower ecological impact planet earth will have few more years of survival.

I love my legumes, a bowl or two of Dal a day keeps me happy. While my favorite is the Red Masoor Dal I rotate my legumes to take advantage of all. Mator Dal or Split peas are the dried peeled and split seeds of Pisum sativum. They come in yellow and green varieties. They have been mechanically split so that they will cook faster.

They are very different from the Indian Toor Dal or Chana Dal though they look similar

Though this dal is relatively common in Bengal, my Ma seldom made it except for in a Tak Dal and consequently I never did. A friend introduced this to me. And it is she from whom I got both the recipes. These are the two ways I have made Mator dal(Split peas) one with veggies the other without. For indexing purposes they are two separete posts.

Check out Sabji Diye Mator Dal or Mator dal with Veggies. Both these dishes go to MLLA # 12 hosted by Annarasa and initiated by none other than Susan

This lovely earthy Mator Dal was what I packed for lunch with some Begun Bhaja and a roasted grape tomato garlic salad. I always love having a bowl of Dal rather than a thick soup. Completely satisfying for both the soul and the tummy. The roasted tomato salad and the eggplants gave the Dal the color and pizzaz that it was missing being earthy and all

The Begun Bhaja or Fried Eggplant is a very simple Bengali delicacy. I see a lot of recipes where the Begun Bhaja is prepared with lots of spices but the ones I have had in my home or other Bengali homes and eventually make are always the simple ones with absolutely no spice other than turmeric. They do soak up some oil so I fry the slender japanese eggplants chopped in mini rounds to have smaller portions of begun bhaja, the oven baked ones are no where near in taste.


Matar Dal/Split Peas

Wash and cook 1 & 1/4 cup of Yellow Split Peas in the pressure cooker with a little turmeric. You can cook in a pot too, it will take longer time though

In a deep bottomed pan heat 3 tsp Oil + 1/2 tsp Ghee

Temper with 1 tsp of Whole Cumin Seeds/Jeera, 3 cloves of garlic minced

When the spices splutter add half of a chopped red onion and 4-5 slit green chillies

Fry till the onion turns a nice pink and is softened

Add the cooked Dal and mix well

Add salt and desired amount of water. I think I added about 1-2 cups of water. Let the dal come to a boil

Just before taking off the heat add a little ghee and 1/2 tsp of Garam Masala powder

We enjoyed this simple Dal with some Begun Bhaja and a roasted salad.

Begun Bhaja

Chop a good quality eggplant in thick rounds or cut vertically

Wash well, pat dry and smear with little turmeric and salt. Set aside for 10-15 minutes

Heat Mustard Oil to smoking.

Slide the eggplant slices gently into the hot oil and fry till golden. Take out with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen towel

To make the roasted salad, in a decent sized aluminum foil throw together 12-15 grape tomatoes, quarter red onion chopped, 3-4 cloves of garlic, olive oil in fair amount and sea-salt. Close the foil to make a pouch. Bake in oven at 375F till the tomato skins are wrinkled up and garlic is soft

For lunch we had just the Dal with this salad and mini begun bhaja

Trivia: The yellow Split peas is the legume used to make Pease Porridge as in the popular children's rhyme "Pease Porridge Hot"


  1. i love baigan roomy had prepared it once and i had loved it, matar dal sounds delicious too

  2. It's the same for us with begun bhaja (bengena bhaji/bhaja , as we call it) :-)

    What a yummy packed lunch!

  3. Ok, got my answer here. Began bhaja looks good.

  4. There was a program on NPR a few weeks ago about how farmers in Punjab are realizing the benefits of organic farming and also plant rotation. Duh! indeed. Monsanto is into India big time which would only signal that things are going to get worse fast regarding GM and other synthentic stuff.

    I have a tough time telling the dals apart. I know yellow split pea is different from toor dal but what is split pigeon pea? same as toor dal no?

  5. hey sandeepa,
    quite an enlightening read...and scary too I go into 'meena kumari mode' after reading such alaraming posts ;)!I just hope and wish people act in a more environment friendly manner. Begun bhaja mmmmm s loves it :) I too love dal a lot! 2 bowls a day is a must for me! love the presentation...I was eyeing the table mats too ;)they are so beautiful.

    BTW Sandeepa.. recently I Read a book called 'Dont loose your mind, loose your weight' on dieting n eating habits authored by Rujuta Diwekar...u won't believe it most of the times in btn the read I was just thinking of u!!! aare maska nahi laga rahi hoo :) just get hold of a copy asap it's damn good! in a nut shell the dietician says eat to loose weight!!!!!!!can u believe that!!!!she writes that having 8 small meals(every 2 hours) a day helps the stomach work effectively and it doesn't have to store fat for it's working...don't start ur day with tea/coffee on empty stomach , have a fruit(no restrictions there any thing that u like)and have breakfast(again no restriction) within 1/2 an hour of the fruit consumption. Then starts the small meals prg at a gap of every 2 hours(hand full of peanuts, a slice of cheese, sprouts, a glass of milk/soy milk,nuts, poha)and she stresses on the fact that have dinner with 8.00 p.m, there should be a gap of 2 hours b4 u retire for the day, exercise 3 times a week, drink lots of water to keep urself hydrated (it dilutes the body acids too)...uffff I've written so much na!couldn't resist :) it really works!it really does I'm reading the book for the second time for a better understanding. normally S makes fun of me going through diet prgs and stuff but he too was hooked to the book and was REALLY impressed...
    given below is the authors blog link just go through her posts at ur leisure :)


  6. Indo
    Isn't Monsanto already there big time and criticized as well ? But they are a big big firm
    I can't tell most dals(toor, chnana, mator) apart either. I had gone totally wrong with this dal this time around, then a friend told me to get "Yellow Split peas".

    isn't toor==split pigeon peas or was that the question ?


    Now you sound like my Mother though you would probably be like my baby sis if I ever had one :D My Mom keeps telling me about eating a large bf and early dinner

    Packing & Carrying too many small snacks to work is a chore though I do carry a snack

    There is this funny story about diet. If S reads bangla ask him about Tarapado Ray

    So there is this lady who wants to lose weight and asks the doc what to do. The doc tells her to eat a Cucumber every 2 hours

    2 days later she is back complaining that her tummy hurts.

    Did you eat the cucumber -- doc asks

    Yes but I also ate my usual breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks goes the lady and then on top of that every two hours I had to eat those damned cucumbers :D :D

    Thanks for the link btw and healthy eating, drinking loads of water and some exercise does keep you fit

  7. Have never tried either of these dishes, but they sound soul satisfying!

  8. Looks yum I prepare in bit diff way..and so the dal is yum

  9. ghee jeere diya dal ar begun bhaja.. aha.. begun bhaja thakle amar ar kichu chaina.

  10. Aha .. begun bhaja ar phulko luchi amar fav. :-)

  11. You know that book I mentioned in my latest post - that's by an old-time zamindarni called Renuka Devi Choudhurani (translated, of course). It mentions matar dal in quite a few recipes - we don't get it here in the South, as far as I know. The begun bhaja looks good.
    We had one at the local Bengali restaurant here, smeared with mustard, lovely!

  12. Hi Sandeepa,

    You reminded me once more of my childhood. Matar daal, was one of the rarest issues, on which we sisters agreed,.... we hated it. My Mom used to make it with kopir dnata, and she I think loved it. Similar was our reaction to Olkopi.... which I continue to dislike. As a consequence and finally being affected with our food tantrums, she banned the two items from our menu. Neither me nor my sis have gone back to either of the two.

    But, as always, as you write, it is looking pretty tempting. May be someday I will try. Bur I am pretty moved with your grape tomato roasted salad.

  13. What a coincidence - just yday I cut a big eggplant (the bharta variety) for a ratatouille and mentioned to my husband that the other half i was keeping aside to make begun bhaja. I havent made it for some years now so he has almost forgotten what it is.
    And you're right - the plain turmeric sauteed ones are the best!

  14. Great post! I totally agree with you. I heard lately about some interesting books I am trying to find and read on this topic: one is The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and the other is called Carrots Love Tomatoes and is about companion planting so that the plants act to keep each other and the soil healthy. Would be interested in your thoughts on these - have you seen them?

  15. The Dal looks interesting and Begun Bhaja is an all time favorite, I sprinkle a little red chilli pwd on it .

  16. You know what, just today I packed begun bhaja for lunch and told my buddies at work that would post the recipe in my blog and here I find it already on yours. :D
    BTW You haven't still abided my blog to enlighten me :(
    Please do so.

  17. Everyone

    Thanks and I see a huge following of Begun Bhaja here. I am not a big fan, but like it occasionally. It is D who loves it


    Motor Dal is used to made something called "chapri" like flat fritters which is used in dry veggie dishes. That my Mom used to do but for that I think you need to grind the dal and all that. Maybe the book had those recipes

    Wild Trotsky

    Honestly I have not read/seen those books. But I guess the nitrogen fixing thing is basic science we learned while in school, didn't we all read about crop rotation with legumes in middle school geography/science ?

    :) Guess that is why my Mom never made it. I like olkopi though and the matar dal turned out to be good, needs a little ghee

  18. I've had this begun baja before in Assam when we went for a bengali friend's wedding, only I didn't know the name. I kept asking about it and the cook said (in bengali which I couldn't decipher) only turmeric and salt. I thought the rest was lost in translation, but apparently not. :)

    It tasted really good!

  19. Hey Sandeepa,

    I am glad i reached this blog..

    You write soo well..

    and your recipes are indeed mouth watering..

    and gues what, i have decided to try out one of ur recipes - Yeah Mator Dal...

    Will let you know how it turns out.

  20. dal and the bhaja aside....i am loving the looks of that salad...cherry tomatoes with garlic..yummm....

  21. mator daal was not very popular in our family. I think mosshoor daal and moong daal rules the roost. I was a big chholar dal fan as a kid. Later on rajma, green moond daal and kabuli channa entered the kitchen with Buniyad. Or was it because my mom grew up in Delhi?

    I remember something called kolai daal. Does this exist?

    My wife is a big daal fan and has taken to Bengali preparations

    I love Begun bhaaja but rarely get to eat. Probably treat myself to it once a year or so

  22. Knife

    Kalai dal does exist and still popular

  23. Sandeepa, I am positive that yellow split pea is not pigeon peas and I have seen green split peas used for soups.
    Yellow split pea is used to make masala vadai and toor dal cannot be used.

    Split pigeon pea is indeed toor dal.

    But then again one can never be sure can they? ;)

  24. am a dal lover too. wish you lived somewhere near me!

    btw do you make combination dals? gujjus have two versions - traveti - which is mung, tuvar and udad, and panchvati which is these 3 and two more dals.


  25. Am a dal lover,though being a south indian we are used to sambhars and rasam....dal will and always be my fav one with rice.I love baigan bhaja, one of very good friends is a Bong and her Mom had made this once when i ahd visited her.....urs reminded me of her moms...lovely one.Thanks for sharing!

  26. Bong Mom, thanks for the link to Kolai daal.

    I must say that your begun bhaja struck a chord and I had some, after ages, with khichudi on Saturday.

    Man, they consume more oil than a fifties Chevy :)


  27. Sandeepa here in India toor dal too has become a once a week dish in poor families and so once in while we see the govt. ads propagating the use of matar dal as it is cheaper and also the color is yellow, like we are used to.


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