Dhokar Dalna is basically a curry (dalna) made out of black gram lentil cake (Dhoka). It is pure vegetarian and considered as satvik dish. It is no onion no garlic dish. But believe me this dish no doubt could give competition to high end spicy non vegetarian dishes.
Traditionally. Hindu widows in Bengal spent highly restricted life. The were not allowed to eat any expensive spices, only ginger cumin & dhaniya was allowed. In some part they were not allowed to even put turmeric in their food , so their food also had to be colourless was their life. But numerous delicious vegetarian dishes cooked without using onion or garlic, is mostly their contribution. Dhokar dalna is one of them and it is such a delight that I sometimes prefer having it rather than Macher Jhol i.e. fish curry. And not only me, many of begalis will agree to this. During my working years, when it was Dhokar Dalna in my lunch box, my colleagues considered that to be a gala lunch that day.
However, this preparation is little tricky and it requires practice for a novice cook. It has many steps before reaching the final step of preparation of curry and that is the easiest part. It needs soaking, grinding, steaming, frying then the final step.
So lets start with it. Dhoka is the lentil cake, dalna is the curry. Where the curry preparation remains the same, there are variations in the ingredient of Dhoka. Traditionaly it was with black gram lentil or dry green pea lentil. But with the passage of time with innovative ideas of the passionate cooks like us, there has been variations to it. Now we find dhoka prepared with fresh green peas , with eggs and with Banana blossoms too. I shall share all these preparations in my coming blogs, because I have received lots of request for that. To day I have prepared Chana Daal Dhoka.
Ingredients for Dhoka (Lentil Cake)
- Chana Daal/Black gram lentil- 1cup
- Scrapped Coconut – ½ cup
- Ginger paste – 1 tblspn
- Green chili- 2-3
- Asafoetida – ½ tspn
- Salt – 1 tspn or to taste.
- Oil preferably mustard 200 gms.
Wash the dal thoroughly and soak itl for 4 hrs. or till it is soft. Strain the water.
Put it in a grinder. Add all other ingredients and grind it to a thick paste. If it is too dry to grind then add minimum water.
Take a steel or any bowl with a flat base and suitable to place in steamer or pressure cooker. Best if you have a roti dabba, which has a flat base. My non Indian reader, you can use metallic bread or cake baking dish. Grease the base and the sides with any oil just like we grease the baking dish.
Now pour the daal paste in it and with spatula flatten it . Best to use your fingers and spread the dough evenly around the base just like cake mix.
If you are using Roti box then to it would have a tight lid. So put the lid tightly. For those using baking dish or some other container, cover it with aluminum foil and put any lid(metallic only) on it.
For making the Dhoka or the cake, It has to steamed either in a steamer or in a pressure cooker just like we bake idlis.
Place the dish in a steamer. Must put enough water in the base because it takes about 25/30 mins to bake.
(In pressure cooker steam it without putting the weight. If you do not want to steam , there is another method. Heat one tabspn oil in a non stick pan. Pour the dough and keep on stiring it till all the moisture from dal dries up and it becomes a dry ball.I have prepared green pea dhoka in this process and it is shown in the picture below.)
Put off the stove and give 5mins standing time before you open the steamer.
Remove the foil. It should look like a steamed cake. Insert a knife and check it comes out clean. It it is not then it needs to be cooked more.
Let it get cold. Use knife to loosen the edges and cut the cakes in diamond shape.
Place a plate over the baking dish and just turn it upside down, The loosened baked dhoka will fall on the plate. See in picture. Now the dhoka cakes are ready.
Pour enough oil in a pan for shallow frying the dhokas. Fry the dhokas in batches. Traditionally these are deep fried. So it is your choice. Actually these fried dhokas are consumed as it is as snack. What we do, few pieces are always kept aside to be eaten as snack with tea or coffee. It is but natural that if it Dhoka in lunch or dinner, the family will expect dhokar bora(fried dhokas) during tea time also.
So dhokas are ready to jump in curry.
Ingredients for Curry:
- Cumin seeds- ½ tspn
- Cumin powder – 1 ½ tspn
- Bay Leaf – 1
- Green Cardamom- 2-3
- Cinnamon stick- 1 of 2”
- Cloves – 3
- Dry Red chili – 1
- Coriander powder – ½ tspn
- Turmeric Powder – 1 ½ tspn
- Red chili powder(preferably kashmiri)- 1tspn
- Ginger paste- 1 tspn
- Green chili slitted- 2
- Sugar – ½ tspn
- Fresh pureed tomato 1/4th cup
- Asafoetida- ½ tspn
- Bhaja Garam Masala– 1 tspn
- Salt 1 tspn or to taste
- Grated coconut for garnishing.
Make thick paste of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder and ginger paste. Keep aside.
There would be left over oil in the pan after frying the dhoka. If the quantity is less than 2 tbspn then add more. Put bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Simmer the gas flame.
When oil is aromatic add cumin seeds, red chili and Asafoetida. Let it splatter. Cumin seeds should not get blackened.
Add the masala paste. Stir for 2 mins. Add Tomato puree, sugar and green chili. Keep stirring till oil separates from the masala.
Add 3 cups of water and bring to boil. Cook for 3 mins.
Reduce the gas flame. Add Dhokas one by one. Cook open in medium flame for at least 3-4 mins or till the curry colour turns dark yellow and oil floats on surface. Sprinkle bhaja graram masala.
Transfer in serving bowl and garnish with grated coconut.
Goes best with Steamed rice. Can be taken with Naan/Paratha/Chapati.