Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dhokaar Daalnaa

Here is my second entry for Sandeepa's Regional Cuisines of India event; we are celebrating Bengali cuisine this month.

This one comes from my beloved friend Sujayita, who indulged me with mega-doses of tea and sympathy for several years. We kept up an impromptu book club during that time, with shared tastes for many genres. But she stubbornly refuses to read cookbooks as if they were novels, and I insist on ignoring science fiction, although I will grudgingly agree with her that Asimov's "I, Robot" is fantastic :D

Sujayita shared a festive and elaborate dish called dhokaar daalnaa. She describes it as pieces of fried chana dal burfis in tomato-coconut gravy. Mitushi, you guessed right :) In this dish, chana dal is cooked not once, not twice, but three times. Move over, biscotti, triscotti is here! Chana dal paste is first cooked and patted onto a surface. Then diamond shapes are cut from the slab of cooked chana dal and pan-fried to a crispy golden brown. Finally, the fried diamonds are simmered in a flavorful gravy. The recipe that follows is Sujayita's adaptation of the traditional recipe; adapted and tweaked to her taste. She explained that most Bengali vegetarian food is made without onions and garlic ("saatvik" type) and the traditional recipe is also sans onion and garlic. But she likes flavoring the daalnaas with garlic, and her sauce is unusual too, with coconut adding a beautiful richness.

Sujayita's Dhokaar Daalnaa

(serves ~4)
For the savory diamonds:
1 C chana dal
1 clove garlic
1-2 green chillies
salt to taste
1 T oil
For the gravy:
2 t oil
1 T grated ginger
pinch of asafetida
1 large onion, ground finely into a paste
1 C tomato puree
¼ C thick coconut milk (or coconut paste)
salt to taste
pinch of garam masala
1. Soak chana dal overnight. Rinse well and grind to a thick batter with garlic, chillies and salt. Add only as much water as required.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and cook the batter until it turns a darker shade and "smells cooked". See note below.
3. Pour the cooked chana dal onto a greased flat surface and pat it down. Let it cool a bit, then cut into diamond shapes.
4. Fry the diamonds in a lightly oiled skillet until golden brown on both sides.
5. For the gravy: heat oil and fry the onion paste, ginger paste and asafetida.
5. Add the tomato, salt and fry until the oil separates.
6. Add coconut milk, 1.5 C water or so, and simmer for a few minutes.
7. Add the fried diamonds and simmer for a few minutes more. Sprinkle with garam masala just before turning off the heat.
8. Serve with freshly steamed rice.

Note: I had a bit of trouble with the chana dal paste sticking to the pan as I tried to cook it. Perhaps I will try to steam or bake the mixture next time. Or perhaps there is some trick I am missing here. Updated: Cathy helpfully pointed me to this recipe which offers a microwave alternative to cooking the chana dal mixture (scroll down to the end of the page).

The elaborate preparation was well worth it; we loved the dhokaar daalnaa! There are very few spices in this dish; instead it is the fresh ginger and chillies that make it flavorful rather than spicy. It is a rich and sumptuous meal, fit for a leisurely weekend lunch followed by a long nap. Sujayita has fed me many meals when I was writing my thesis, and this is yet another meal that she has fed me today! For her chholar dal recipe, see this post.

*** *** ***

Shhh...the bhu-bhu is napping...

Have a great week ahead, everyone!


  1. sweet dreams Dale :)

    Oh Nupur - that sounds soooo good! I must, must, MUST try this!! Funny... when I was hunting around I found something (besan ki sabzi) which I thought might be a candidate for your mystery dish. It's not Bengali but it does have dumpling-like things in a gravy!

  2. I've never heard of this dish before - it looks delicious. Would using a non-stick pan help with the sticking problem?
    And as always, Dale is just too priceless for words!

  3. Lovely write-up Nupur. Its a beautiful dish, the pics are drool worthy, wondering hw it might hv tasted :) Choooo cute...Dale all curled up!

  4. Something about the phrase "savoury diamonds" makes me want to try these immediately!

  5. Nupur,
    Very nice recipe. In fact I soaked way too much chole the other day so I will try this. However, one doubt for coconut milk you wrote alternatively coconut paste can be used. Can coconut paste be made from shredded coconut? Thank you.

  6. Your sleeping bhu-bhu looks very cute . I loved the way you used the term - "bhu-bhu".

    My kids laugh at me when I say "bhu-bhu" :) They think it sounds too funny.

  7. Dear Dale looks so adorable curled up like that having sweet doggy dreams! Sleep well and my dear :)

    Nupur, I love the way you introduce such wonderful dishes to us. I have never heard of this dish but your vivid description makes me eager to try it, and try it I definitely will. You have a very loving and caring friend, the way you have so lovingly described her. I have one dear friend just like that I am so grateful to have her in my life. Take care.

  8. Nupur, This looks so delicious! Definitely worth the effort.

  9. chana dal burfis in a tomato sauce, what more can one ask Looks delicious. I will try to bake it when I attempt this recipe.

  10. This dish looks very nice. I think it's great that you showcase your friends' recipes. I am sure they are very proud!

  11. Hey! You made it already! Am I proud or what! You totally made my day. :D
    So, with the sticking of the paste, it is supposed to leave the sides of the pan once it gets cooked, at least that's how I know that it is done. But then, I use a non-stick. But the microwave idea is great!
    How was your weekend?

  12. I wish I had a friend near by, who cooks such hearty meals :(

  13. ahhh! the puppy! the cuteness, it is too much!

    i've never heard of this dish, but it looks and sounds fantastic.

  14. You have real great friends Nupur. Your "Dhoka" looks so perfect. An awesome entry.
    Sujatiya's twist on the original gravy sounds delicious. I have always had the one with "no onion-garlic"

    Thanks for the microwave tip too. My Mom once baked the squares instead of frying and they turned good enough

  15. Cathy, try this sometime on a leisurely is really fun to make and tastes delicious! You did some savvy searches there :D thanks for getting me that link. Besan is the prime candidate for such dumplings but this one starts with chana dal itself (from which besan is made). In my experience, all dumpling-like things in a gravy are delicious!!

    Kamini, I had never seen anything like it until I ate it at Sujayita's home some years ago. I did use a non-stick pan...the sticking was not that bad really, just a thin film left in the pan after I poured out the batter (and it came off once it cooled), but I just got a little anxious as I was trying to stir it :D
    Dale says hello and sends you a hug!

    Purnima, it tastes very rich, like a typical feast dish. The dumplings are so delicious...they taste great even just by themselves.

    T. W. Barritt, LOL...I hope you do try these sometime!

    Jennifer, I used chana dal here so I wonder if whole chole will work the same way...they probably will taste a little different...still tasty though. Coconut paste can be made from fresh (or fresh frozen) shredded coconut, but I am not sure about from dry/desiccated coconut flakes.

    Anjali, "bhu-bhu" is only one of the names I call Dale. The rest are even more nonsensical! :D

    Namita, yes, sometimes Dale has dreams where he woofs and waggles his paws when he is dreaming of running is too funny and cute!
    I have very very few close friends, but they are worth their weight in platinum! And yes, I am very grateful for them :)
    This dish is worth a is unusual and delicious! Have a good week ahead, Namita :)

    Yogita, it sure was delicious :)

    Indosungod, I know right :D fried spicy burfis dunked in a is just blissful! If you do try baking, let us know how it works so we can learn from your experience :)

    Jamie, I'm lucky to have friends who generously share their recipes! :)

    Sujayita, I did...I did!! I was so excited about making it :D I did use a non-stick pan this time and will remember your trick! And yes, will try the microwave method too. Thank you, thank you!!

    Suganya, well, she is not near-by any more :( but when she was, I was pampered royally!

    Michelle @ TNS, I know...I can't bear the cuteness of puppies either :D

    Sandeepa, I sure do!! I loved the garlicky hint in the dhokas a lot here....will remember the baking tip for the squares. I have to say the shallow-frying gave it such an irresistible crisp crust, I almost gobbled them up then and there :D

  16. hey nupur, i thought as much the other one would be from sujayita :) incidentally, dhokar dalna did cross my mind, but that is waaaay out of my league! you two are awesome for being able to come up/execute that recipe to perfection. too bad i missed the guessing post :( would have aced that one for sure :D
    dale looks so comfortable, he makes me want to curl up and take a nap right now.
    love, shoots:)

  17. Yummy! And i am so glad i didn't guess this one right ;). My vote always is for the savory, you see :-D. Such a beautiful preparation this is (and i love the fact that it uses coconut milk and ginger and green chillies). And yes, this one is a lovely ode to friendship and memories.

    And yes, shhhhhhh, everyone :). Dale darling is enjoying his dreams :).

  18. Hi Nupur,

    Have been lurking on your blog for sometime. I am a Marathi mulgi living in Chicago and your feature on the A-Z of Marathi cooking was wonderful - varan bhaat, ukadlelya batatyachi bhaji, thalipeeth, sabudanyachi khichdi - reading these words evoked the warm comfort of home and brought a smile to my lips.
    I finally tried your one of your recipes yesterday - bharleli vangi - and it turned out very nicely. Thanks for posting it. Also wanted to let you know that, as a vegan, I am grateful that you have a tag for your vegan recipes.
    Its a great food blog (also, your bhu bhu is adorable :)

  19. Hi Nupur, I have used a bamboo steamer that I picked up in Chinatown, to eliminate one of the frying steps. I set the ground dal on a lightly greased plate inside the steamer and then cut the dal in squares.

  20. Your dhokkar is very tempting. I can't wait to try this.

  21. Hey Shoots, I have no doubt you have aced the guessing game ;) Listen, dhokaar dalna is more elaborate than our usual recipes for sure, but is definitely not out of your league. Give it a try sometime as a weekend project!
    On cold days, it is really fun to snuggle up with Dalu...he is soooo warm and soft, like a warmed blankie :D

    Musical, LOL I knew your vote would go for the savory! This one has "musical" written all over it...give it a try sometime!
    Sometime I should film Dale when he is actually is hilarious and cute :)

    Ira, thank you for your sweet words and thanks for delurking to say hello! Also, thank you for the feedback about the "vegan" tag. Next month, when I have more time, I will go back to old posts and make sure they are tagged as well. I also started a tag called "easily veganized" for those recipes that can be made vegan with a minor substitution.

    Bulbul, Thank you for that tip! I'm going to try the steaming method next time, perhaps in a pressure cooker without the pressure on. Although those bamboo steamers are ever so adorable...

    Jayasree, Glad you like it :)

  22. Sounds like a variation of the rajasthani pitod ka saag. Glad to know this recipe and Love your write up!

  23. oh nice looking dish, will give it a try... and my son loves dogs too and he calls all of them bhu-bhus !! :)

  24. Hi Nupur, I missed the guessing game :( but dhokaar daalnaa certainly looks wonderful and I bet well worth cooking thrice -- triscotti had me laughing out loud :) Dale looks so adorable -- they're all angels when they're sleeping -- kiddies, kitties, and puppies too ;)

  25. wonderful dish, Nupur! Looks delicious. Of course, nice pictures as usual.

  26. that looks kinda easy to make.. i havent forayed much into bengali food :)

  27. That looks like one comforting dish...guaranteed to hit the spot each time.

  28. I am bookmarking this to make SOON! I have some chana dal just crying out for this recipe. Thanks!

  29. Burfi/vadi reminds the typical Maharashtrian Patvadi (or Patodi as it is called in Jalgaon area) which is added to spicy masala bhaji/aamti.

    Very nice blog. Even though I don't find time I keep coming back to this blog many times.

    Went crazy with the Appey picture and got the appey pan this time from Pune.

    Thanks for the motivation to all others in trying new food variations.

  30. Hi!!! I love visiting your page for new recipies. Good work! Keep it up!


  31. Dunno how I missed out on this gr8 post!Maybe coz I was caught up with moving and all that!
    Anyway, when I saw this I HAD to make it! and I did! Just cut down on the coconut part ( hubby is psychologically allergic to coconut :D ) BUt LOVED IT! the wadis are so yum! I had a few just like that!!! Too good!! will make it again for sure!
    Bhu-Bhu looks ekdum 'pillu' !!!


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