Bengali Chhanar Dhokar Dalna- a delightful rendition of the age old classic – Dhokar dalna, the dish which is one of those classiest vegetarian dish from erstwhile elite culinary school of Bengal and looks deceptively easy to make. But it takes time, patience and passion to learn such delicacies.
Having said that there were few experiments done with this classy vegetarian dish. The rendition of Koraishutir Dhokar Dalna from house of Tagore’s deserve special mention here. Tagore’s were known gastronomes of their times, known for their penchant for luxuriant rich and diversely ethnic food traditions. Some recipes were their innovations and with time they have become one of the most sophisticated and elegant dishes in Bengali cuisine.
This rendition of chanar dhokar dalna (which has been adapted from the famous and classic book on Bengali Cuisine – Aamish O Niramish Aahar by Pragnya Devi Sundari) is deliciously rich, exuberant with aromatic spices, the sheer opulence of desi ghee and the curry which is as smooth as silk. The paneer or chhena in this dhokar dalna beautifully offsets the balance towards more protein power.
A dish suitable for special occasion and absolutely regal in nature.
How to make chhanar dhokar dalna – this is simple. I have simply added fresh chhena to the regular dhokar dalna ingredients. And this makes all the difference.
Can you make this with regular paneer? You can try. But it might give you different result. Regular paneer is dry and you need moisture of fresh chenna for this recipe. The moisture will helps to blend everything uniformly and homogeneously.
What to serve with this chhanar dhokar dalna ? This dish will go best with Bengali mishti pulao and luchi / or fluffy and puffy Bengali pooris.
Can we bake or steam dhokas here? Both the techniques you can try, but I personally prefer to do it in the traditional way, that is by drying it in kadhai or pan till it forms a coagulated mass. Baking dries out the dhokas and if moisture content is less than required, while frying it, the dhokas may crumble. Steaming however gives good results but you need to do in pressure cooker or water bath technique. Do not try to steam it in microwave. It remains uncooked and you wont get the right texture too.
What’s in the name? Yes, I have name it as Chhanar dhokar dalna – meaning dhokar dalna with chhana or mashed paneer / Indian cottage cheese. This name could be misleading to many, if you are not very familiar with the Bengali dishes. We have another dish called – chhanar dalna, that is plain old paneer and potato curry.
How to make chhena – please refer this post on rasgulla.
Steamed spicy paneer and lentil cakes are curried in a lightly scented cumin-ginger paste. Chanar dhokar dalna goes very well with bengali pulao or luchi.
- 1 cup Chana dal / Bengal gram , after soaking
- 200 gm Chhena / crumbled paneer (yield from 1 L milk)
- 1/2 cup Coconut, grated
- 4 tbsp Khova / mawa
- 2 tsp Green chillies, finely chopped
- 2 tsp Ginger-cumin paste
- 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds, roughly ground
- Salt and sugar to taste
- 4 tbsp Ginger-cumin paste
- 1/2 cup Tomato puree
- 1/4 cup Milk / Coconut milk
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp Red chilli powder
- 1 tsp Green chillies chopped
- 1-2 Bay leaves
- Cardamom - cinnamon and cloves : 2 piece each
- Bengali Garam masala : a large pinch
- Oil for frying
- 1 tbsp Ghee
- Potatoes cut into qaurts : 2 cups
- 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 pre soaked cumin seeds. Keep aside.
- Grind together all the ingredients listed under dhoka / lentil cakes.
It will be a smooth mix but will have slight coarse texture. Do not puree it.
In a non stick pan (or use a kadhai) pour the mixture and on low medium heat keep stirring it till it becomes a solid mass like structure. This will take around 20 minute.
The above process can be done in water bath or steam in pressure cooker.
On a well greased tray, pour the mixture, flatten it , give it square or circular shape whichever is possible.
When cooled slightly, cut the cakes into desired shapes . Please refer to the picture given in the post.
- 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 puree.
- 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 paneer lentil cakes or dhoka.
- Add more water if requires.
Cover the pan and let the dhoka simmered in gravy for 5 minute. Switch off the heat.
Stir in coconut milk or milk (use warm). Switch on the heat and let it come to a gentle boil. Do this on low heat only.
- Just before finishing, sprinkle garam masala and drizzle a spoonful of ghee.
- Serve it warm.
Dhokas will soaked up all the water, so before adding the dhokas, make sure enough water is there in the pan. It is best to prepare this dish at least one hour before serving. so that dhokas will not end up as dry or crumbly. It should be juicy.
Looking for more interesting recipe of paneer from Bengali cuisine? Do try this – Bengali Chhanar Kalia