Have you ever heard of this unique Bengali dal – with bitter gourd? I mean the not so famous Bengali Tetor dal? If not then welcome to the richness and simplicity of everyday Bengali cuisine , dishes that remain insulated with in the geographical boundaries of Bengal and never transgressed beyond and remain unknown to the larger Pan Indian population. Cholar dal could be more celebratory dish from Bengal and immensely popular too but dishes like this are true identity bearer of Bengali cuisine.
Raise a toast to this essential summer special – Bengali titar daal or more precisely Bengali dal with bitter gourd or ucche. Even in Bengal, this dal is more popular with Bangals or East Bengalees than the natives of West Bengal. So, its not surprising at all that this may remain unheard of.
Bitter gourds are blessed with immense immunity boosters, anti-inflammatory , anti viral and potent food for diabetes. At this moment, as I am writing this post, the world is at war with the deadly corona virus which is still at its investigation stage, cures and vaccines yet to be invented. At the same time, I feel equally blessed to know that there are certain foods in our culinary traditions and heritage that acts as immunity boosters. All we can do in this difficult times that we can lean back to those forgotten recipes of yesteryear when people used to emphasize a lot on seasonal and healthy food and the foods that are known for their medicinal properties.
In Bengal, a regular diet of Bengali tetor dal , neem begun (fried neem leaves with egplants), neem er jhol or shukto and sojne phool (moringa flowers) are must have in this spring-summer times, when pathogens become more active in the air. In absence of vaccinations in earlier times, people used to rely on these kind of foods because of their proven medicinal properties. If nothing works, at least these foods will surely boost ones’ immune system.
In Bengal, we have this tradition of starting our meal with anything bitter, strictly adhering to Ayurvedic norms of meals, and bitter taste not only cleanse your palate but also prepares you to enjoy and relish rich food that follows afterwards.
In my home, I have often observed that in summer, Ma would carefully craft our daily Bengali meals around at least one bitter food, be it shukto, tetor dal or neem bhaja and a light summer style Bengali fish stew which is not only delectable to the core but at the same time light on palate and immensely healthy too.
How to prepare Bengali Titar Dal / Dal with bitter gourds ?
Bitetr gourds comes in two vaieties – smaller ones and the bigger ones. Smaller ones are called ucche in Bengali are more bitter than the bigger ones, knowns as Korola or karela (in Hindi). For this recipe, if you can find the smaller ones, or ucche it would be good.
Lightly roasted yellow moong dal which imparts beautiful aroma to the dish, chunks of bottle gourd, lightly toasted roundels of bitter gourds, singeing of ginger paste with dried red chillies, cumin, radhuni and freshly grated coconut together weaves a harmonious symphony of flavours and taste, which uplifts this simple sounding dal to just another level.
Like bittergourd, addition of bottle gourd or lauki, another summer coolant vegetable packed with immense health benefits amp up the nutrition profile of this dal. It also beautifully balanced out the bitter taste of the dal.
Bengali moong dal with bitter melons
- Pressure Cooker
- ½ cup Yellow lentils, Moong Dal
- 1 cup Bitter gourd / bitter melons cut into roundels
- 1 cup Bottle gourd, cut into big chunks
- ¼ cup Freshly grated coconut
- Ghee as required
- Salt and sugar as per taste
- 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- 1 tsp Radhuni seeds / wild celery seeds lightly roasted
- 2-3 Dried Red Chillies
- 1 tbsp Ginger paste
- 3-4 tbsp Mustard oil
- 1-2 Bay leaves / Tej patta
- Wash the lentils and drain the water properly. In a kadhai roast the lentils till lightly brown. At first it will be little difficult as the lentils will be all wet, but keep on doing this on low heat. Once all the moisture evaporates, increase the heat very slightly and roast it. Add one teaspoon of ghee while doing this.
- Remove the lentils and in the same kadhai add mustard oil. Bring it to smoking hot, and lightly fry the roundels of bitter gourd. Take care not to fry them crispy or golden. Take them out.
- Meanwhile in a pressure cooker, bring 2 cups of water to boil and add fried moong dal and chunks of bottle gourd, little oil, one teaspoon of ginger paste, turmeric powder and salt. Pressure cook on low heat upto one whistle only. Add more warm water to get the desired consistency of dal.
- In the kadhai, warm up little more ghee. Temper it with cumin seeds, roased radhuni seed (you can powder it also, if you want to) , dried red chillies. Add ginger paste and saute it lightly. Add grated coconut and roast it lightly till nice aroma comes.
- Add first the bottle gourd pieces, then lightly mash the dal and add it to the kadhai. Adjust the seasonings. Add the bitter gourds and let the dal cook on low heat for sometime more till the bitter gourds are soft.
- Serve this bengali tetor dal with rice.
Golden crispy roundels of bitter gourd looks very appetizing and immensely photogenic too, but honestly my Ma would raise an eyebrow if I fried the bitter gourds till golden and crispy. We lightly shallow fry the bitter gourds till they are little soft.
This is a homely style dal with subtle and clean flavour. Too much tempering and fried ingredients will perhaps nullify the benefits of this dal it is supposed to impart. Hence choice is yours.
This bengali tetor dal with fried begun bhaja ( fried eggplants ) or narkel bora (coconut fritters), sojne phool posto (moringa flowers) and light summer bengali fish stew makes a comfortable Bengali summer meals.
Here is a round up post of 14 unique summer food from Bengal, if you are into eating healthy and nutritious food this season, this post can definitely guide you through.
Stay Safe, Stay Healthy