One recipe that has resurfaced during this difficult time of lock-down is this – Bengali daler borar jhol / dal vada curry or lentil fritters curry. Very soul satisfying and comfort food at its best. Whoever has invented this dish had done immense favor on mankind perhaps, a perfect surviving food for all kinds of situations and has stood through test of time.
Lentils are essentially a surviving food, like the Indian Musoor Dal khicdi, staples for millions, prime source of proteins and in situation like these they are almost godsend.
As we progress more towards a tech laden lives, we often tend to forget about our roots, the simplicity of being simple and this thought process practically applies to all spheres of our lives. In exchange of imported flavours we often tend to overlook the simple, rustic meals that has sustained us through generations no matter what the situation would be.
This daler borar jhol / dal vada curry is exactly a point in case. I don’t remember when I had made or eaten these last, simply because we become so busy in idolizing the foods that are apparently becoming indicators of one’s social signature.
An absolutely old school classic like this is slowly getting lost in oblivion.
This dish is so forgiving, so accommodating and extremely versatile, you can never go wrong with this. You can choose any kind of lentils you fancy, just keep it in mind that the flavour notes changes from lentils to lentils.
You can make this as it is or you can club it together with other vegetables for a more wholesome approach.
Which lentils goes best for this recipe ?
Musoor Dal or red lentils, is obviously the most popular choice.
You can make this dish with Bengal gram or chana dal, motor dal or split pigeon peas too in scented ginger cumin base.
I had made these with musoor dal, boosted up with the goodness of chana dal and this mix has greatly enhanced the taste.
You can make this into a simple lentil pakora curry with potatoes in onion- tomato base.
If you club it with other vegetables, then there are two ways of doing that .
Summer version – lentil bora or pakora with ridge gourd, potatoes and pointed gourd. Basically a very simple, light and runny jhol of aloo, jhinge ( ridge gourd) and potol / parwal , flavoured with only cumin and ginger- all summer favourites that are essentially lighter on palate too. This particular daler borar jhol goes very well with steamed rice and makes for a best summer comfort food.
The one that I made is enjoyed mostly on rainy days when vegetables are scanty and is richly curried in onion tomato base and this is pretty much the usual ways of making it. Since it was going to be a single meal dish, I have clubbed it with potatoes and red pumpkin, the only vegetables I had in hand at that time.
Winter version – In my home this simple daler borar jhol takes a festive look in winters with seasons best cauliflower and green peas comes to accompany the lentils bora (preferably made with motor dal or split pigeon peas), sometimes small shrimps thrown in good measures and richly curried and flavoured with ghee and Bengali garam masala.
Bengali Daler Borar Jhol / Lentil Fritter Curry
- ½ cup Musoor dal / Red lentils
- ¼ cup Chana dal / Bengal gram
- 1 Onion, chopped
- 2 Green chillies, chopped
- 1 Ginger piece 1 inch long
- 1 big Potaoes, cut into chunks
- 1 cup Red Pumpkin, cut into chunks
- 1 Onion Paste out of 1 onion
- 2 tbsp Ginger paste
- 1 tbsp Garlic, chopped
- 2 medium Tomato, chopped
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 tbsp Turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp Cumin Powder
- 2 tbsp Coriander powder
- 2 tbsp Red chilli powder
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- Salt and sugar as per taste
- Refined oil for deep frying
- 2 tbsp Mustard oil
How to prepare the lentil fritters / daler bora
- Soak the dal in hot water for one hour. Drain the water completely.
- Now in a mixer, put dal, ginger cut into small pieces, one green chillie, pinch of turmeric and salt.
- Pulse it till it become a medium coarse paste.
- Take out the dal mixture in a bowl, add chopped onions, chopped green chillies, half portion of all the spices except cumin seeds.
- Using a fork mix it well and rest it for half an hour.
- In a kadhai or deep bottom pan, pour enough refined oil for deep frying.
- Once the oil is hot enough, lower the heat to medium hot. Scoop the mixture using a spoon (I have used tablespoon) and carefully place it in hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry it till golden brown from all sides. Slot them out on a kitchen towel.
How to make the curry
- In a separate pan, heat the mustard oil. Once hot enough, temper it with cumin seeds and bay leaves. Add the chopped garlic, once the garlic absorbs brownish hue, add the onion paste, followed by ginger paste. Let it saute for few minutes and add little salt and turmeric powder. Fry for sometime till the paste starts leaving the sides of the pan.
- Slide in the chopped tomatoes now, followed by all the spices mentioned above. Braise the masala paste on medium heat till it starts changing color. Add in the vegetables and mix it well. Keep frying till vegetables becomes slightly tender.
- Add around 3 cups of water, lower the heat, cover and cook till the vegetables are cooked through. This will take roughly 15 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are cooked through, add the pakora, check the seasonings, add water if requires (beacuse fritters are going to soak the gravy at least 1/4th) bring it to rapid boil. Switch off the heat. Drizzle some ghee over it. Cover and serve after half an hour. This will give time to lentils to soak some gravy and they will become juicy, which is very important.
What is daler borar jhal?
There is another similar version of this daler bora, the lentil fritters are no doubt being the favorite of many, hence a totally different version is equally popular and is known as daler borar jhal. For uninitiated we Bengalis does take this difference seriously, jhal is very different from jhol and not just a simple replacement of a in place of o. Jhal essentially is made with mustard paste. And the usual red lentils are being replaced with whole /skin udad dal or black lentils.
Lentil pakoras or daler bora is perhaps the best way to enhance and boost up the vegetable curries with added protein power, like this Bengali Chapor Ghonto – a mix vegetable curry with lentil patties. You can also check Bengali Koraishutir Dhokar Dalna – steamed green peas and lentil cakes in a ginger cumin scented curry.
However the key of making a good daler bora lies in how good you can spiced up the dal paste. For the recipe the dal must be coarsely ground and I have flavoured it with chopped onions, green chillies and spices.