By: Ritu Chanda
Covid-19 not only swallowed the entire 2020 but has brought drastic lifestyle changes throughout the world – frequent social gatherings have been replaced by social distancing; ‘home-at-work’ (for most IT workers) has switched to ‘work-from-home’; and most importantly a major percentage of in-store shopping has been defeated by online shopping.
Although these changes have caused socio-economic chaos, we can’t deny the fact that this pandemic has taught us a lot about dealing with crisis!
I still remember when the first lock-down started in mid-March. Everyone panicked and people started hoarding up pantry staples and other necessities. Grocery aisles were either empty or stores were closed down. Our family, on the other hand, decided to avoid visits to grocery stores (until things were under control). This decision did not bother me for the first few days while I had pretty much everything in stock, but as days passed by, things started to get a little whacky in the kitchen. With most of the fresh produce gone, I had no choice but to cook my family meals with whatever was left in my pantry. To my surprise, besides wheat flour (atta) and rice, the only other major staple I could see was a big bag of chana daal!!
As they say, “necessity is the mother of invention”, I started brainstorming different recipes centered around chana daal.
‘Chana Daal’ or ‘Split Bengal Gram’, as we all know, is one of the most popular vegetarian foods in the Indian subcontinent served in different forms but did you know that Bengal gram is one of the earliest cultivated legumes in the world. Interestingly, historical facts suggest that in medieval India, it was the revival of the ‘dum pukht’ technique (slow cooking in steam) that raised the stature of daal, especially chana daal, in the royal menu. So much so that in years to follow, serving any other daal except chana daal to the Emperor was considered a suicidal move by the royal cooks!
Chana daal is highly nutritious, delicious and easily digested. Unlike its siblings, each of whose usage is more common in a particular regional cuisine, Chana Daal is equally popular in each and every part of India due to its rich taste and aroma. Because of its widespread usage, there are loads of recipes with this staple and I am sure most of us have tried quite a few of the common ones at some point of time in our kitchen too. But due to lack of time and readily available options, we keep pushing aside some of the old elaborative recipes (like Dhokaar Daalna or Radha Bollovi) or tend to forget those bookmarks in our cookbooks.
With no more choices left on my cooking board, I thought this was the ideal time to bring some of those recipes back to life! To name a few, I made –
1. Luchi & Chhola’r Daal
a Bong family’s first choice for breakfast, lunch and snacks. This traditional combo is a quintessential for all festive occasions when Bengalis are prohibited from eating rice!!
2. Dhokar Daalna served with steamed rice.
a signature Bengali vegetarian delicacy made using diamond shaped fried lentil cake, 'dhoka' (not "cheating" as its namesake in Hindi stands for) simmered in a rich gravy, the 'daalna'.
3.Radha bollovi and aloo dom
a famous deep fried Bengali flatbread (a remake of 'luchi') stuffed with daal filling. These are made during special occasions like 'Puja' and marriages, and pair best with niramish aloo dom.
The famous Ganguram's 'Radha bollovi and aloo dom' brings back so many nostalgic memories from my college days!
4. Daal Pakwaan
a famous Sindhi breakfast recipe
very similar to Bengali chholaar daal and Punjabi bhatura combo!
5. Daal Vada
a famous South Indian fritter with onions, ginger and coconut – the moment I prepared this one rainy day, my Bong heart craved for some ‘muri’ and luckily I found a handful in a container.
6. Khichudi with chana daal
my take on the traditional version with moong daal.
7. Masala Chana Daal
a famous fried or roasted North Indian savory wherein the fried daal is mixed with ground spices.
8. Puran Poli
a Maharashtrian sweet roti stuffed with coconut, jaggery and boiled chana daal which is a must have on festive occasions in every Maharashtrian household.
9. Chana Daal Dosa
crepes made with soaked and ground chana daal batter mixed with onions, green chilies and cilantro served with green chutney (from my frozen stock)
10. Chana Daal Halwa
a little unusual and unfamiliar to a Bong maybe but a must-have in a North Indian family like myself, especially during the festive occasions of Holi and Diwali.
Soaked and ground chana daal is sautéed till a rich aroma is achieved, and then prepared into a traditional halwa, flavoured with cardamom and saffron.
I believe we can treat any staple in our pantry pretty much the same way because Indian cooking is so versatile. Try it for yourself and see if you can come up with 10 dishes from any one of your pantry staples!
About the Author
Ritu loves to cook. She loves to try out different things from the available resources in her kitchen. She also loves to share those ideas and extract satisfaction out of it. She lives in the city of Johns Creek in the state of Georgia, USA.