Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How Sonny makes Dal

Dal is pretty much a standard at many of our family meals. It is nutritious ( very high in protein!), tasty and more importantly the fussier members of the household love dal.

Dal is a dish that is eaten all over South Asia, probably a little less in Bhutan than in  other parts of the sub-continent.  It is both ubiquitous and hugely varied. Not only are there lots of different types of lentils that can be made into dal but also a huge number of ways to cook it. In general though  the lentils are cooked long and slow ( or you can cheat a little like with do with an pressure cooker) into a seasoned stew or soup (depending on how thick your family likes it) that is then eaten with rice or  some kind of flat bread like chapati.

Here is how my brother Sonny makes dal on an average weeknight. The lentil we use is orangish in color and based on a quick Internet search is called "split red lentils" or  masoor dal. The first thing we do is wash the dal and soak it water while we prepare some of the other ingredients. The soaking helps it to cook a little faster.

Now Sonny chops up onions, garlic, ginger, tomato and some chilli. You can see on the right hand the approximate sizes to aim for. Later he frys the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli in the pressure cooker. Sonny then adds some salt, curry powder and a bay leaf.


Once things start to get golden ( if they start to  brown you have fired too long!) he adds the tomato and immediately afterward he adds the drained lentils, the drier the better. Then Sonny stirs and let this mixture fry for a while.

Now its  time to add water based on how thick or thin you want the finished product to be ( I am so sorry not to have exact measurements but as discussed in previous posts, Sonny doesn't use measurements when he cooks)

Now its time to seal up the pressure cooker and wait for it to signal with its steamy whistle that the contents are ready ( Sonny let the whistle go three times before he opened up to see how the dal was doing) If you don't have a pressure cooker, you might try soaking the dal a little longer. Pressure cookers are kind of wonderful,  though potentially dangerous for first time users! Read the manual, steam burns are very, very painful!

Once Sonny opens up the pressure cooker he checks for water and salt and adds more as needed.  He then continues to stir until the dal is ready. Just before serving he adds some butter and sometimes chopped coriander ( cilantro for  any American readers) .Once the dal is cooked and served there are still option for how to eat it. Here are two: a)  You can either  pour it over the rice, mix well and eat or  b) you can reserve the dal in a small side bowl and drink it like soup.  Either way Sonny's dal is always delicious!

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