Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dhokar Dalna -- a lesson in Lentil Cakes




Spiced Lentil Cakes in a gravy


I am a lot like Big Sis S(BSS) or is it the other way round ? Whatever it is we both try to avoid things that are hard. Force us in a difficult situation and we will be fine coping with it and coming out stronger but given a choice we will try to avoid the difficult route.

Take BSS. She started Piano lessons some time last year. She loved it, practiced with diligence, sailed through her lessons as if she was a musical genius and played at the drop of a hat. Things started changing couple of weeks back. She started giving excuses around practice time, musical enthusiasm hit all time low and a marked drop in excitement on lesson days was noticed. A talk with her Piano teacher revealed what I already knew. Lessons had gotten harder and as Little Miss BSS was not able to sail through them as easily as on a cloud, she was no longer as enthusiastic about them.

We had a little talk, that kind of thing comes easy to me, I love it when I am at the giving end of such talks. Things seems to be better now, it is not that hard to motivate a 6 year old after all.




Take Me next. Dhokar Dalna, the master piece of Bengali Cuisine has eluded me all these years. I love Dhokar Dalna, to eat that is, to cook, I always dismissed it as "too difficult". Ok, I think I did it just once but that just reinforced my belief that it took too much time and oil to be deemed worth repeatable in my kitchen. However BSS's example triggered me. If that little girl could go back and do her "Lets Rock" or whatever sheet music several times over, I could at least try Dhokar Dalna once more.

So I made it today, I wouldn't say total success, there are these small nuances that need to be taken care of next time. I am yet to get the right texture for the lentil paste to make the cakes and some of my dhokas or lentil cakes were cracking which shouldn't happen. But I think I did conquer my fear. After all my three decades and more of existence has taught me that "Done is better than perfect"(quoted from Scott Allen), at least some times.




Dhokar Dalna, is one of the pillars of Niramish(Vegetarian) Bengali Cuisine, just like Shukto. The lightly spiced lentil cakes or dhoka are fried and then simmered in a gravy made with tomatoes and ginger, spiced with cumin and coriander. This dish traditionally is a purely satvik dish, sans any onion or garlic like most Bengali Niramish(vegetarian) dishes. Bengali widows were not allowed to eat onion or garlic and the Bengali vegetarian cuisine is mostly their contribution, that explains why it is satvik.

The dhokas are such a delight and the gravy is so fragrant that you wouldn't even miss onion or garlic in here. Enjoyed best with plain white rice, the dhoka sure brings joy, though it actually means "to cheat".

Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates. 


Read more...






Dhokar Dalna


To Make the Dhoka or the Lentil Cakes

Soak 1& 1/2 cup of Cholar Dal/Chana Dal/Bengal Gram in water overnight

Drain the water and grind
the lentils + 6 green chili + little salt
to a fine paste. Add little water as required for grinding

Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. Temper the Oil with
3/4 tsp of Whole Cumin seeds/Jeera,
a pinch of Asafoetida/Hing,
1/2 tsp of sugar,

and 1& 1/2 tsp of Ginger paste
.





Add the lentil paste/ground dal to this and cook until the mix comes off the sides clean. The dal should be cooked so that is moist and soft but not runny or hard. Note: This step is really tricky.You need to stir vigorously else the paste will stick to the sides and you need to be careful to remove the moisture without making it hard. Add little oil as needed to avoid sticking.






Smear a flat plate with oil and pour the soft dal mix on this. While it is warm, pat lightly with your hands to form a flat, slightly raised round structure




With a knife make squares or diamond shapes





Heat some more Oil and fry the lentil cakes till golden brown on both sides. Take care that they do not break

To Make the Gravy

Heat Oil in a Kadhai or any other thick bottomed pan

Fry 1 potato chopped in eights till golden, remove and keep aside.

Temper the Oil with
2 small Bay leaf/Tej Patta,
3/4 tsp of Cumin Seeds/Jeera
and a pinch of Asafoetida/Hing


Add 1 tomato finely chopped and 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger. Saute till tomato is reduced to a pulp and there is no raw smell.

In 1 tsp of Yogurt, mix
1/2 tsp of Corriander Powder, 1/2 tsp of Roasted cumin Powder(or Regular Cumin Powder) 1/2 tsp of Red Chili Powder
and a little turmeric to make a fine paste.
Add this paste to the Kadhai. and fry the masala at low heat.

Add the potatoes and about 1&1/2 cups of water. Add salt to taste and cover and cook till potatoes are done.

Adjust for any seasonings, add a little sugar. Add about 1/4 tsp of Garam Masala and 1/2 tsp of Ghee and gently mix.Now gently slide in the pieces of dhoka or the fried lentil cakes. Simmer for couple of minutes to let the dhoka soak up the gravy. Note:If like mine some of your dhokas are cracking do not add them to the gravy, rather place them on the serving dish and pour the gravy on them.

Serve with hot white rice.


Other Dhoka Dalna around the Blogosphere with little variations:

Dhokar Dalna but with onion and garlic -- from One Hot Stove

Dhokar Dalna from Ahaar

Dhokar Dalna from SJ

Indrani's Dhokar Dalna

Sudeshna's Dhokar Dalna


47 comments:

  1. interesting recipe...nice presentation deaR!

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  2. Seems and looks divine ,will try.BTW my heart went out to the Bong widows ad actually most Indian widows of yore,for all the sacrifice they were expected to make and to give up so many foods is in the my eyes the worst .

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  3. Dear sandeepa
    This is perfect, the spice ,, the making process just took me back to the old days...I can get the light traditional aroma of Dhoka dalna !!!
    will try as soon as i am back home.
    Of late once in a while i used Cook-mie ready mix, it is good, but the strong and riot of spice take away the traditional frgrance of the dish.
    Have a nice weekend
    Ushnishda

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  4. Interesting recipe... lovely presentation!!!!

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  5. very interesting! bookmarked :)

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  6. That stirring part keeps me from making this often. The dalna looks perfect Sandeepa. Bhaja dhokagulo khete beshi bhalo lage amar. :-)

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  7. Perfect Dhokar Dalna. I love it mildly spiced the way you made. between ami majhe majhe ektu tel makhie dhoka guloke bake kori. tate telta kam lage. ajkal jano Cookmi'r readymade dhoka mix paoya jay. bohudi age hostel e thakar samay akbar baniechilam kharap lageni. try kore dekhte paro. jhamela mukti anekkhani.

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  8. The South Indian Vada curry is somewhat similar (chana dal soaked and ground with spices) but it is shaped into balls and steamed or deep fried so a lot easier than trying to cook the flour itself - I can see why that would be daunting!

    Looks delicious!

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  9. sandeepa,
    Oh! wish I can grab some of it now.
    I too dont feel much comfortable stir/fry process of bata dal.
    kicho din agey ekta relative er bari te giyechilaam,tara ready-made mix diye dhokar dalna bani e chilo , jeta ami jaantam na.Eyi ready-mix to aajkal Kolkata e ghore-2 use hoye.
    ami jokhoni dhoka r dalna khai ba banae bhabhi eyi naam ta keno porlo .Mane "dhoka" in hindi is cheating,right..lol..
    anyways scratch theke banaor jonno tumake onek hugs dilaam.
    hugs and smiles

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  10. Kids are like that Sandeepa. They have a very short attention span. Don't force it, orelse it backfires and they HATE it. Let her decide,support if she says "not anymore". My son was a all star in elementary school, did every possible thing there is, perfect A' all thru' and then he just gave up on everything at middle school except Guitar and with A's and B's. Don't know what happened there those 3 years but he is 90% back again in High school with clean sweep of A's again. I think it's their age, makes'em little "strange", I wouldn't worry about that unless they are into smoking and drugs! :D

    Dhokar Dalna looks yum, like Pasta dish Indian style.

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  11. I have never had this, looks so so delicous. If i ever come and visit you i will make you make this for me :-)
    S have her fathers musical talent, but still she need sometimes a push too.

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  12. I made a similar Dhoka'r Dalna a few days ago but all its *jhol* was soaked by the *bodas*. Probably 'coz I did not leave much water.

    Your Dhokar Dalna looks so divine. Almost want to scoop into it. :-)

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  13. I tried this once and liked it ( without potato ), in fact I liked the lentil cakes so much that quite a few were eaten just like that!

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  14. I saw this yesterday and decided to make it today. I used 1 cup of chana dal and 1/2 cup of split green peas, and I used dry ginger instead of fresh. I didn't have to use any water to grind it.

    I made it at 11 and by 2 p m, it is all but gone, and there were just two of us for lunch. The Spouse also liked it a lot. There was v little gravy though, I suspect the dhokas soaked it up. There were around 20 dhokas and I ate three of them as soon as they were fried. I'm definitely making it again!

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  15. Well, that looks pretty darn perfect to me! I am the same way as you and your little girl, I need to take small steps and get rewarded with success otherwise I get unhappy and give up.

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  16. I have been wanting to do dhoka for a LONG time.. kintu oi bhoye tei ar kora hoyna. I am bookmarking this, for whenever I can gather up the courage and time to do it:-) at least you have done it!!

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  17. My younger one too has this tendency but I too talk (?#$#) and cajol her to continue her ventures. We make such a gravy and call it "pakoda kulambu". This reminded me that I have never posted a recipe in my blog. Will do that. I love the idea of slicing the lntil paste. We just make ladoos and deep fry.

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  18. I'm just like you. Or should I say, just as you used to be! Avoid long, convoluted recipes, esp after they don't come out well the first time I made an effort to try.
    Dhokar Dalna looks and sounds really yum, San. Gotta try!

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  19. To answer your question...I handle research and analysis for the sugar industry in India....of which Kolhapur is the heart

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  20. Rekha
    Thanks

    Sunila
    That is so true

    UshnishDa
    Yeah my Mom said the same about the ready made Dhoka mix, too spicy

    Rachana
    Thank You :)

    Nags
    :)

    Sharmila

    Amar o :)

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  21. Rekha
    Thanks

    Sunila
    That is so true

    UshnishDa
    Yeah my Mom said the same about the ready made Dhoka mix, too spicy

    Rachana
    Thank You :)

    Nags
    :)

    Sharmila

    Amar o :)

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  22. Sayantani

    I heard this baking thing from my Mom. I think she did it once. I will try that next time

    Miri

    Yeah making balls would have been easier. We have a dish like that too.

    Jaya

    My Mom told me about this ready mix, but as Ushnish da said, she found it a bit too spicy. Maybe it wasn't the right brand.

    Asha

    You are totally right. But I don't her to give up and then regeret later like I do now. I refused to learn music as a kid and now I want to go back and do it.
    But yes there is a very fine line between pushing and motivating and very difficult to keep balance

    HC

    Ok come come, at least you will viist us then :)

    Pree

    If I am not serving immediately, I take the dhokas out of the gravy and only at time of serving bring them together

    Manasi

    Exactly, same scenario here :-)

    Sra

    Good that you used the split peas. My Mom said that though traditionally only chana dal is used, a little yellow split peas in the mix helps in binding better.

    Will try that next

    Nupur

    That is because I took the pic that way ;-)

    Soma

    Tomar janya this will be a cakewalk

    Nirmala

    We have a dish with fritters too called "Bara'r Jhaal", this is a little different becaus eof cooking the lentil paste

    Vani

    Not "used to be", still am "same" ;-)

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  23. My son does in everything! From sports, friends to food, is just for few months... I need to push him! I thought gal will be different.
    This recipe is totally new and interesting!

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  24. Sandeepa, it's been such a long time since I had dhokar dalna. I absolutely love this dish had it lots at a family friend's place during our stint in Kolkata; will have to give it a try, looks delish.

    Btw,BSS sounds more and more like my R ;-)

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  25. my daughter is like that too, when it comes to play, she loves and enjoys as far as it is easy and she is winning! when it becomes harder, she says it's no more & interesting & all .... she manages to see me in all colours :):)

    those lentil cakes in that " onion/garlic less "gravy sounds very new and delicious!!! looks simply fantastic in that kadai !!! that's one more recipe I'm bookmarking :) cheers!!!

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  26. Sandeepa,

    wish you a very happy Holi.Dol e te ki korle ?, amra eyikhane r rong khelte parini , eyishob jonne khokhono-2 barir jonne mon karap hoye jaye..
    and my daughter gets bored very easily, oke onek rokom kore motivate korte hoye ,khokhono-2 ekto push O korte hoye lol..tobe ek point er por ami chere di , jokhon iche hobe tokhon korbe bhebe shanto hoye jae lol..jani it's all part of growing up! our mothers have done that and now it's our turn LOL..
    hugs and smiles

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  27. Sandeepa - grill the whole lot!! Much easier. I make masala dhoka to serve as snacks!

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  28. last weekend-e first time dhokar dalna baniyechilam. bhalo hoyechilo. thanks for sharing.

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  29. I feel that way about myself too, i dislike doing anything that is complicated be it at work or home. Being a Piscean escapism comes easily to me.
    But kudos to you for trying out this complicated recipe.
    BTW i made something similar just the steaming part of the lentil cakes and will post it soon.

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  30. I rarely attempt anything complicated. So kudos to you for breaking that feeling and making what looks like fairly perfect dhokar dalna.

    It is, as you said, the pillar of vegetarian Bong guest food.

    They use readymade packs back home in Calcutta

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  31. This sounds good, a sort of dee-fried dhokla. It must be good even without putting it into a gravy.
    Coming from a traditionally non-garlic and sometimes non-onion culture, this sounds even better.
    Have bookmarked it.

    Your daughter sounds just like mine with her keyboard classes. Till she realised that other kids (some smaller) were doing better than she was! That got her going and she's back at practising and enjoying it now. :)

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  32. You make it sound so easy actually! Think this needs to be tried out asap!

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  33. You know , I steam the lentil mix over a pan of simmering water , then cut it into diamonds and fry it . Love dhokaar dalna !

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  34. oh i'm definitely going to try this - always order it in bengali restaurants! love it! thanks for the recipe - you make it sound so easy and try-able!

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  35. Hi Sandeepa,

    I made this recipe today, and almost lost my patience midway, because I felt it took the effort of making two different dishes. But I did manage to complete somehow, and it did turn out good! I remember my mom making this without a food processor, ie. using a shil nora to make a paste of the dal. I can't imagine how she managed to keep up with our frequent demands of having dhoka'r dalna. If I were her, I would probably make it once a year!
    But your recipe was great! Thanks a lot.

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  36. NP

    If you are female you are my soul sistah, if you are male, soul brother(does that exist?).
    I lost my patience too and never tried again though I need to practice to make it better.

    I am in lookout for an easier way, like Eves Lung says. But i was so p***** by the effort of this one that I didn't even try a second time !!!

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  37. My mom mixes a little bit of matar daal with the chana daal and a few flakes of coconut (not much though). I actually baked the daal cake instead of deep frying. I was surprised how good it came out.

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  38. hello...
    Dhokar Dalna korte actually takes a lot of courage..i too am a Bengali..residing at Pune..
    Normally Ma ke phone kore recipe niye ni...but tomar way of writing wid pictures made my work so much smooth je..i m posting this comment aftr succesfully making our famous "Dhokar Dalna"...
    Thanks A tonn for d wonderful recipe n superb presentation...

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  39. Hi Sandeepa, I have never eaten Dhokar Dalna in my life but made a brave attempt to cook it. However when I tried making the lentil cakes, they would simply break and disintegrate. The mixture did not have raw smell and tasted good. Not sure where I went wrong :(.
    Rehana

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  40. Rehana

    Welcome sistah :) I know the lentil cakes are hard to get right. It will break if the mixture is wet or if it too dry. It takes a bit of experience to get it just right.

    Next time try adding a bit of matar dal with cholar dal. That I think will make it bind better. As Raj said, baking it can also solve the problem.

    I have never done the baking part. Once I try, hopefully will post

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  41. Thanks Sandeepa. I don't want to give up on Dhokar Dalna due to one failure will surely try again.
    Rehana

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  42. Dear Sandeepa
    Aj tomar recipe use korlam Was waiting to make this for last 2 years!!!! ...just too good..
    Bhalo theko

    Ushnishda

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  43. By the way ebar bujhte parlam...anek blog e Chrome theke comment korte parina ...Same in your case...IE is working fine to comment in your blog and many others

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  44. Not sure whether I should be reporting this, but I was looking up for Dhokar Dalna recipe and came across a blog which has all your images for the same recipe - http://storybehindeachdish.blogspot.in/2011/08/dhokar-dalna-lesson-in-lentil-cakes.html.

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  45. My inlaws in Bihar have a similar thing with Besan...called Besan ki Sabzi...Besan kneaded and rolled into elongated shapes with thickness of two fingers...then boiled in hot water and fried and then put to gravy of onion and garlic and other masalas.

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  46. Bah.ami ektu deri korlam boley "coming soon"? Thik aachey. Rakhi purnima jindabad.

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  47. Dear Sandeepa,

    Thank you so much for sharing all these wonderful recipes, I only discovered Indian cuisine when I moved to USA (from Europe) and made friends with Indians from different regions. I have to say I love Bengali food the best, although there is always a dish from other parts that would warm my heart :). I had never tried to make any lentil cakes but this recipe sounds so amazing that I will keep at it till it comes out (I am one of those hard heads ha ha). So I have to ask a beginner question, and please forgive my naivety, but is it possible to make these with Toor dal? If I understand right, chole/cholar dal are the chickpeas, but I only have those canned right now (and I imagine too cooked for this dish). Please let me know...I will be forever grateful!!!

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