Koraishutir dhokar dalna is a beautiful variant of the classic Bengali dish dhokar dalna. The spicy peas and lentil cakes are steamed and then fried in enough oil till they turn golden brown. You can devour them as a snack or make a curry with scented cumin-ginger paste which is a very flavourful combination of two ingredients and it becomes a backbone of many Bengali vegetarian dishes as we do not use onion and garlic with our vegetables.
The essence of Bengali cuisine lies in maintaining a delicate balance between the main ingredients and its seasonings. Bengali vegetarian dishes are exemplary of fine cooking where utmost care are taken so that one must not overpower the other and taste and appearance of the main ingredients like fish or vegetables should not be drowned in heavy gravy. Dhokar dalna is a fine example of that essence and exemplary of culinary repertoire. Bengali cuisine is primarily segregated into many categories like dalna, kalia, korma, chorchori and chenchki etc.. and all these represents different cooking styles and cutting styles. While for chenchki the vegetables need to be cut into julienne and as such no ground spices are used, for dalna you need to cut them into quarts and cooked in a thin or thick gravy flavored with ground spices and Bengali garam masala. In short dalnas are royal in nature bursting with rich aromas.
Dhokar dalna is considered as a epitome of Bengali vegetarian (niramish) cuisine, which is known as pure sattvik food. Anything which is not sattvik if added, is considered as impure or fusion, something the old fashioned or purist will not even touch. And that is what I have observed in my family. Since tomatoes has entered very late into the Bengali kitchens, so traditionally tomatoes never find its way in any Bengali recipes. Except as tomato chutney which has become quiet popular in later part of the 20th century. So initially my dhokar dalna recipe also does not list tomatoes as one of the ingredient, as I tried very hard to replicate the old fashioned way of cooking as my Grandmas would make it but could never replicate that taste. So for me, tomatoes comes very handy to make it tasty and thicker gravy especially for this koraishutir dhokar dalna. Dhokar dalna I still make it in traditional way without tomatoes or curd, only with jeere-aada bata (cumin-ginger paste). Koraishutir dhokar dalna is a beautiful variant of this classic dish, with natural sweetness of green peas beautifully melded with chana dal or Bengal grams and together that makes a perfect marriage of taste and flavour.
My probasi upbringing has always deter me from accepting this beautiful dish whole-heartedly as to my non -Bengali friends I could never found enough reason nor to convince why I had eaten dhoka that day (Dhokha khaya?) . Dhoka in Hindi literally means ” to cheat” or falsehood and the word has no origin in Bengali language. Yet it has become one of the most sought after delicacy in Bengali cuisine.
Food conjures memories, strengthen the intercultural ties and many times it beautifully adapts to new rituals and cultural stricture, thus giving birth to range of such dishes that bears semblances to their origins but modified to dietary restrictions and values. Like many faux non-veg dishes, and koftes are one of them. Anoothi Vishal in her book “Mrs. LC’s table” has beautifully summarized these dishes as core cuisine for the Kayastha vaishnavite community where women of the community keeps inventing such vegetarian variant of the non-veg dishes. Like besan or chickpea flour mixes into a dough, steamed and then dunk into a thick gravy. For many it is Rajasthani special “gatte ka saag” and in eastern U.P it is also known as “dhokha”.
These dhokar dalna probably have originated as such or may as an innovative culinary skills of Bengali widows who were restricted to a sattvic diet and as fish and meats were prohibited for them, they might have devised a way to add something meaty in texture to their diet, and also as a good source of daily protein intake. Whatever the reasons dhokar dalna is still considered as yardstick of culinary expertise for Bengali cooks or home chefs.
Before heading for recipe, there are few make-ahead that will definitely save your time like –
- soak the chana dal well in advance, blend it and steam the dhoka
- Keep ready the tomato puree
- Prepare the jeere-aadabata / cumin-ginger paste
P.S – I use only Bengali garam masala for this dish, recipe can be found in the link provided.
- Chana dal / Bengal gram : 1 cup
- Green peas : 1¾ cup
- Green chillies (finely chopped) : 2 tsp
- Ginger-cumin paste : 2 tsp
- Fennel seeds ( roughly ground) : ½ tsp
- Asafoetida / hing : a tiny pinch
- Salt and sugar to taste
- Ginger-cumin paste / aada-jeere bata: 4 tbsp
- Tomato puree : ½ cup
- Turmeric powder : ¼ tsp
- Red chilli powder : ½ tsp
- Green chillies chopped: 1 tsp or more
- Bay leaves : 1 or 2
- Cardamom - cinnamon and cloves : 2 piece each
- Bengali Garam masala : a large pinch
- Oil for frying
- Ghee : 1 tbsp
- Potatoes cut into qaurts : 2 cups (optional)
- Wash and soak the chana dal for 5-6 hours.
- Prepare the tomato puree from a well ripened tomato
- Wash and soak the cumin seed for half an hour.
- Peel and roughly chop finger long ginger piece. Grind it together with 3-4 tbsp cumin seeds. Keep aside.
- Grind together all the ingredients listed under dhoka / lentil cakes.
- It will be a smooth batter but will have slight coarse texture. Do not puree it.
- Grease a flat bottom microwaveable dish.
- Pour the batter, and cook on micro high for 5-7 min or until set firmly.
- You can steam it in water bath or pressure cooker.
- When cooled slightly, cut the cakes into desired shapes .
- Heat enough oil in a kadhai or deep bottom pan.
- Fry the dhoka till they are golden brown.
- If they are not fried properly, dhokas will break when simmered in gravy.
- In the same oil, fry the potatoes and keep aside.
- Heat two tablespoon oil in a pan.
- When it is hot enough, add bay leaves, cinnamon-cardamom and cloves.
- Add the ginger-cumin paste. Fry it for a minute, then add tomato pureee.
- Add the lightly fried potatoes.
- Followed by all the spices except garam masala.
- Saute the masala paste till oil leaves out from the corner of the pan.
- Add salt and sugar taste.
- Add water enough to cover half of the kadhai.
- Lower the heat and let the potatoes cooked through.
- Once done, add gently the lentil cakes or dhoka.
- Add more water if requires.
- Cover the pan and let the dhoka simmered in gravy for 5 minute.
- Just before finishing, sprinkle garam masala and drizzle a spoonful of ghee.
- Serve it warm.
Stay tuned for more Bengali recipes coming soon