This is one recipe that I have been planning to post for a long time. Not only because it is one of my favourite Bengali dishes, but also because this recipe has a long history in my family. So, the story is that my mom makes THE BEST dhokar dalna (lentil cakes in a sauce) in the world! People go so gaga over her dhokar dalna that she has been making them every weekend for as long as I can remember to entertain "sudden visits" from people (who call in advance requesting dhokar dalna!).
Bored with the compulsory dhokar dalna every Sunday, I once told my mom (some 15 years ago) that she "ought to graduate from dhokar dalna." To which she replied, rather condescendingly, "Jedin amar moto dhokar dalna korte parbi janbi rannai Ph.D kore felechis (the day you match my dhokar dalna you will have achieved a Ph.D in cooking)."
Needless to say, as much as I would like to prove my dhoka cooking prowess to my mother, that day hasn't come yet. So, I figured I will let the expert share her secret with all of us. Furthermore, what's a more appropriate Panchamidish than dhokar dalna? So here's my mom's famous dhokar dalna.
For the lentil cakes
2 cups Bengal gram/chana dal/cholar dal
1 cup dried peas/matar dal
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
3 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp asafoetida
½ tsp onion seeds
4-6 green chillies, finely chopped
oil for deep frying
For the sauce
3 tbsp mustard or vegetable oil
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 whole cardamoms
1 tsp ginger paste
2 green chillies, slit
8 large tomatoes, puréed
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
½ tsp garam masala powder (optional)
To make the lentil cakes
- Mix the two kinds of dal and soak in water overnight.
- Drain the water and grind the dals/lentils into a smooth paste.
- Add coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, ginger paste, salt and sugar and mix well.
- Heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan.
- Add asafoetida, onion seeds, and green chillies. When they start to splutter, add the dal paste.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until all the water evaporates and the mix starts sticking together and comes off the side of the pan easily.
- Remove from heat and form the lentil cakes (follow the video below for instructions).
- Deep fry the lentil cakes till golden brown (takes about 3-4 minutes).
To make the sauce
- Heat oil in a pan and temper with bay leaves, cardamoms, ginger paste, and green chillies.
- Add the puréed tomato and cook for 10-12 minutes.
- Add cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt and sugar. Cook for 10-15 more minutes or until oil separates.
- Now add the fried lentil cakes and stir lightly.
- Turn off heat and add garam masala powder.
- Serve with steamed white rice.
- Do not cook for too long after adding the lentil cakes to the sauce or they will break.
- The lentil cakes will absorb a lot of sauce, so make sure that you make extra sauce. Add some water to the sauce if necessary.
- You can also add fried potatoes to the sauce.