Learn to make this authentic Bengali style Cholar Dal with chana dal by following these steps. A flavorful vegan lentil dish made using some unusual spices.
I have known some very strong Bengali women in my life and each one has played a pivotal role in it! From one being my first boss in Bombay to the one who became my friend here in the US, I have learnt many things from them. Having been friends with them for long, I have got many occasions to taste their food. Their food and the names of it are very endearing. Although they are largely fish eaters, there is a vegetarian side to this cuisine too. Bengali cuisine generally involves a hot palette, using a large number of herbs, spices, roots and mustard oil in order to create dishes that are full of depth. The flavors in this particular cuisine are distinctive and vibrant. The incorporation of spices and roots, which are ground into paste, give many of their sauces and meats a very strong, rich taste. Whenever I prepare a dish from any Indian cuisine, I am left amazed at the sheer versatility! Every Indian cuisine has so much to offer and each one is so different from the other that it makes experimenting with these cuisines so exciting. Just few days back I shared a recipe from this wonderful Bengali cuisine called Cabbage & Potato Curry. When I told my Bong (Bengalis are called Bong, fondly) friend this, she suggested that I serve it with Cholar Dal!
Since I had never heard of this dish called Cholar Dal, I immediately asked her to explain what it is and how its made. While she was telling me the recipe, my mind was already racing miles ahead. I could imagine the taste of this dal knowing what wonderful ingredients went in making it. This dal recipe was special as it was different to anything I had made before. I just had to make it in my kitchen in order to taste this dish for myself.She went on to mention that her community prefers to have dal as part of their breakfast. This was totally new for me. I had known that Dal which is a thick stew-like dish, made from pulses is consumed frequently across India acting as a staple. But found it very strange that people out there have it for breakfast. I always prefer to enjoy my dal for lunch or dinner. Anyways, now that I had this recipe, I decided to give it a try. Since its main ingredient – chana dal or split yellow peas was abundant in my pantry, it was not a problem to try it out immediately. Yes, I always have a variety of lentils in my pantry. That ways, I can make any dish using them anytime. I guess, the fact that I am an Indian and that we use lentils in our cooking extensively, is one big reason for that!
Plus lentils are low maintenance. You can store them in an airtight container and keep it in a cool dry place for upto 6 months. The Indian Dal is made with all kinds of lentils. Dal has always been our comfort food. Dal and rice will invariably remind every one of their moms. It’s just the way it is. It’s funny, but whenever we have friends or family travelling all the way from India, the first meal they want to have as they arrive here is Dal and rice. Even when we come home after a vacation, all we want is this meal! We love this food combo. There are numerous varieties of lentils available in the market which means that there are infinite recipes that you can make using them. Like I said before, every Indian cuisine itself has a different Dal recipe. Cholar dal from the Bengali cuisine is made of chana dal. Also called split Bengal gram, chana dal are immature chickpeas that have been split in half and polished. It is rich in metabolism and energy-boosting lean protein making it an ideal plant protein source. It contains no cholesterol or trans fats. Similar to chickpeas, it holds its shape while cooking. Soaking them overnight or an hour before cooking helps them soften, and also decreases cooking time and further improves digestibility.
Now without much ado, let me show you how to make Cholar Dal with Chana dal. It’s a very basic recipe but extremely delicious. It is also considered to be a festive recipe as its prepared during most festivals in Bengal including Durga Pooja, weddings or for other celebrations. First we need to rinse chana dal well and soak it in water for 60 minutes. If soaking in hot water then soak it only for 30 minutes. Pressure cook the dal in turmeric + salt water. Give it 5 whistles. You can even cook this in an Instant Pot. The grains will hold its shape but will be cooked fully. Transfer the cooked dal to a pan and let it simmer. Add sugar and salt. Meanwhile heat oil in a tadka pan. Add asafoetida, bay leaf, cumin seeds, minced ginger, dried red chillies and a masala made by grounding cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Fry all of this for 30 seconds and then pour this tadka over the dal. Then add and stir in cumin powder and chilly powder. In the same tadka pan, heat oil and fry fresh/desiccated coconut, raisins and cashews. Fry till they turn light golden and then pour this second tadka over the dal. Coconut gives it a nice texture. Mix it all together and cook for another minute. Cholar Dal with Chana Dal is now ready. Serve it with steamed rice or any Indian bread.
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Bengali style Cholar Dal with chana dal
- 1.5 cups chana dal
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- salt as required
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp oil
- 2-3 dried red chillies
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 3-4 cloves
- 2-3 cardamom
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp chilly powder
- 1 tsp oil
- 2-3 tbsp coconut - fresh/desiccated
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 1 tbsp cashews
- First we need to rinse chana dal well and soak it in water for 60 minutes. If soaking in hot water then soak it only for 30 minutes. Pressure cook the dal in turmeric + salt water. Give it 5 whistles. You can even cook this in an Instant Pot. The grains will hold its shape but will be cooked fully. Transfer the cooked dal to a pan and let it simmer. Add sugar and salt. Meanwhile heat oil in a tadka pan. Add asafoetida, bay leaf, cumin seeds, minced ginger, dried red chillies and a masala made by grounding cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Fry all of this for 30 seconds and then pour this tadka over the dal. Then add and stir in cumin powder and chilly powder. In the same tadka pan, heat oil and fry fresh/desiccated coconut, raisins and cashews. Fry till they turn light golden and then pour this second tadka over the dal. Coconut gives it a nice texture. Mix it all together and cook for another minute. Cholar Dal with Chana Dal is now ready. Serve it with steamed rice or any Indian bread.
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Love lentils but you have exhausted all possible ways to incorporate them in your food? Check out these recipes for inspiration – Spicy Quinoa & Red Pumpkin Adai | Lentil Dosa, Indian Dal Shorba | Lentil Soup Recipe, Spicy & Steamed Vegan Lentil Balls, Kale Adai | Kale & Lentil Savory Pancakes, Lentil & Rice Noodles | Paruppu Sevai, South Indian Medu Wada | Lentil Fritters, Methi Dal | Fenugreek Lentil Stew, Raddish & Lentil Stew, Lentils Beet Soup with Baked Naan Chips, Lasooni Dal Palak/Lentils Soup with Spinach & Garlic, Moong Dal Spinach Chilla | Lentils & Spinach Crepes and Lentils & Black Rice Burger. Crispy Vegan Split Peas | Masaledar Chana Dal and Steamed Quinoa Chana Dal Idli are two recipes that specifically call for chana dal as their main ingredient.