Langarwali dal is a dish that my family relishes as well. “Langar” is the free meal service provided in Sikh Gurudwaras to all visitors. The philosophy behind “langar” is that everyone without any distinction of cast, creed religion will be able to partake this food and that is the reason the food served here is usually vegetarian and without onion and garlic. And anyone who has eaten food in a “langar” will vouch for the taste factor.
The dal I’m featuring today is transformed into something delicious, elegant and fragrant with the use of simple ingredients.
In the Bollywood Cookbook the “langarwali dal” is listed as one of actor Shahrukh Khan’s favourite dishes. The restaurant manager at the Masala Bay restaurant in Taj Land’s end which is on the same lane as the superstar’s house had once told me that their “langarwali dal” is what he orders often when he dines with them.
I usually opt for the ‘langarwali dal” because of the absence of onions and garlic but was pleased to note that several people without any dietary restrictions have marked this as their favourite as well.
Let me reiterate the fact that this dal has no fancy ingredients, no copious amounts of butter or cream. And perhaps that is the reason one is able to actually taste and relish the dals with just a few spices and herbs playing the supporting cast to bring out the magnificent qualities and taste of the hero of this dish, the black gram dal.
I always like to soak my grains and pulses before cooking with them. Years ago I came across this philosophy of being kind to your grains and in return they will be kind to you. And what this means is that digestion and assimilation of the nutrients becomes easier when you soak your grains.
Soaking grains and pulses has actually been practiced by our ancestors and is a century old practice. It is known to breakdown antinutrients and hard to digest elements like phytic acid, an antinutrient found in grains and legumes.
Some grains and legumes require soaking overnight and some will do with just 15 to 20 minutes of soaking time. It is such an easy process that requires a little amount of planning that will in return do a world of good.
The “Langarwali Dal” is simplicity, comfort, taste and nutrition in a pot. And tell me..how many dishes can stake a claim to so many important factors that make a nice and healthy meal?
So, reserve some space for this bowl of goodness in your lunch or dinner menu be it for a party or for an everyday meal. It is sure to make some space in your heart as well!
Langarwali Dal Recipe
140 gm (3/4 cup) split black gram dal (with skin) (split urad dal with skin)
70 gm (1/3 cup) Bengal gram dal ( channa dal)
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and grated
1 or 2 green chilies, chopped
2 to 3 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp to 3/4 tsp red chili powder
1 1 /2 to 2 tsp salt to taste
fresh coriander leaves
Wash the dal well and soak the dals in water for about 15 minutes.
Drain the dal and put in about 3 1/4 cups (800 ml) water. Stir in the turmeric and cook covered for about 1 hour, adjusting the quantity of water if required. Alternatively cook the dals in a pressure cooker for about 15 to 20 minutes on the lowest heat after the first whistle.
In a wok or kadhai, heat the ghee or vegetable oil on medium heat. Stir in the cumin seeds and when they change colour and plump up a little, lower the heat and put in the ginger, green chilies and tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes turn soft and pulpy.
After the tomatoes turn soft, stir in the spices, the coriander powder and red chili powder. Stir this mixture into the cooked dal. If your wok is big enough, you could also put in the dals into the wok.
Put in the salt. Mix well. Adjust the consistency with hot water if required.
Put in the fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with warm breads, rotis, chapatis or rice.