Lentils are a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Indian cuisine has a well evolved understanding of vegetarian food habits and balances the diet with a large variety of lentils and vegetables. Lentils also known as dals is a regular staple in every Indian meal. Each lentil is cooked in numerous ways across India such that you could make a different recipe of dal every day of the week.
Lentils/ Dals are also made into snacks or desserts. These Lentil Squares/ Cakes can be had as a healthy protein packed snack or you could smother them in your favorite sauce as a main course meal.
There are many variations of this recipe all across India. My mom would make daliche vade or pan fried dal fritters by soaking the chana dal for a few hours and then coarsely grinding them with green chilies, ginger, cilantro and salt. She would then drop a couple of tablespoons of this mixture on a greased heated pan and spread them into small 2 inch discs. The fritters would be flipped and cooked on both sides till nicely browned. This was an easy, crunch snack or side to a simple vegetarian meal paired with rice and dal.
Today's recipe is of Bengali origins given by my mother in law. Its called Dhokar Dalna. This recipe is little more elaborate.
- 1 1 /2 cup Chana Dal
- 1/4 cup yellow Moong Dal
- 1/2 inch piece ginger
- 1-2 green chilies
- 1/4 tsp hing/asafoetida
- salt to taste
- Wash the dals and soak them submerged in water overnight.
- Next day drain the water, add ginger, chilies, salt and asafoetida to the dals and grind it all to a coarse paste. Do it in batches with minimal water added to only help you grind.
- Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil to medium in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick.
- Add the ground paste and keep stirring till all the excess moisture evaporates and the mixture comes together leaving the sides of the pan. Take care that the mixture doesn't burn at the bottom of the pan.
- Grease a plate lightly and keep it ready.
- Pour the cooked mixture onto the greased plate and flatten it with a spatula.
- Using a knife cut it into squares or diamond shapes.
- These savory lentil cakes are ready to eat at this point.
- To crisp them further heat oil in a wok /kadhai.
- Deep fry these squares a few at a time till they are golden brown.
- You can also pan fry them for a healthier alternative.
- These savory lentil cakes can be served as a high protein, healthy and delicious snack. It tastes great accompanied with ketchup or cilantro chutney.
They can also be added to your favorite sauce or curry to make it a main course.
Bengali cuisine has a recipe called Dhokar Dalna where in these lentil squares are dunked in a Niramish gravy (spicy broth made without onions and garlic).
Dhokar Dalna Gravy
- 1 large boiled potato, chopped into 8 pieces
- 1/4 cup peas
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup yoghurt/curds
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 inch ginger, grated
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- In a bowl, take the yogurt and add all the spice powders and mix well.
- In a large saucepan, heat some oil.
- Temper with cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
- Add the grated ginger, peas and potatoes and stir fry.
- Pour in the yogurt mix and a cup or two of water (depending on the gravy needed) and mix well.
- Let the mixture boil for 5-7 minutes till the spices are cooked.
- Add salt and sugar and taste to balance the flavors.
- Add the Dhoka/lentil squares and simmer for a minute or two.
- They will absorb the flavors of the curry and should retain their shape.
- Serve hot with steamed rice and dal.