Dhokar dalna is a quintessential Bengali recipe which is usually made on special occasions. This flavorful side dish consists of diamond shaped dumplings made of chana dal and simmered in a rich gravy.
We are currently on a ‘no onion – no garlic’ diet for a religious restriction which is why I was looking for recipes which do not involve onion or garlic. Today’s recipe of dhokar dalna is one such side dish which takes a little effort but guarantee to be a crowd pleaser! Dhokar dalna is a very popular Bengali delicacy which is being carried forward from the era of our forefathers since a very long time. The process might have been improvised as the time progressed but the underlying essence still remained the same. The diamond shaped dumplings made of chana dal is called dhoka and dalna means a rich gravy.
Yeah, the name may sound a bit strange to you if you are not a Bengali as ‘dhoka‘ means something else in Hindi which is completely unrelated to food. I have no clue why this dish is called dhokar dalna as ‘dhoka’, or ‘betraying’ as it means in Hindi, has got nothing to do with such an amazing dish.
If you haven’t ever had this dhokar dalna, you are definitely missing something. Yeah I agree that it takes a while to whip up but it’s very rewarding at the end. It’s best for a weekend family lunch and I am sure everyone will be delighted with this scrumptious dish.
Indian cuisine is full of different varieties of dals or lentils and there are uncountable recipes that can be made from each. There could be simple dals or lentil soups which serves as the best comfort food ever when paired with rice i.e. our very own ‘dal-chawal‘. And then there are other delicacies like this dhokar dalna which is made with chana dal but follows a different process. Traditionally it is made with only chana dal, but I have mixed chana dal and matar dal in 2:1 ratio. Matar dal is not so popular outside the Bengali cuisine, so you can skip it and use only chana dal for making dhokar dalna.
If this dhoka is something new to you then let me explain – it is nothing but soaked and ground chana dal, rolled and cut into a diamond shape and then fried golden brown. These dumplings are then simmered in a rich & spicy gravy until infused with all good flavors and turn somewhat soft. A final sprinkle of garam masala at the end and you are sorted for a grand meal! Try it!
- Chana dal / Gram dal – 1 cup
- Matar dal - ½ cup (if you don’t have matar dal, substitute it with ½ cup of chana dal)
- Green chili – 2
- Ginger paste – 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Mustard oil for frying
- Potato – 4. small, cut into small cubes
- Mustard / vegetable oil – 3 tbsp
- Hing / asafoetida - ¼ tsp
- Dry red chili – 2, broken
- Cumin seeds - ½ tsp
- Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
- Cumin powder – 2 tsp
- Coriander powder - ½ tsp
- Red chili powder - ½ tsp
- Sugar - ½ tsp
- Garam masala - ½ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Soak both the dals separately for at least 8 hours. Then rinse them thoroughly and add to the grinder. Add green chili, ginger paste and salt to the lentils and grind them using as little water as possible until you get a smooth paste.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of mustard oil in a non-stick kadhai/wok. Pour the paste to the wok and keep stirring them keeping the heat on low until most of the moisture evaporates from the paste and it comes together like a dough. This step is quite tricky which is why you have to be a little careful here. The paste must not turn too hard, it should retain a kneadable consistency.
- Grease a large flat plate with oil all over. Choose a plate with high sides.
- Remove the dough from wok and put it on the greased plate. When the dough is cool enough to handle, press them onto the plate by patting lightly with your fingers and covering the base of the plate. Try to make a disk of uniform thickness.
- Grease a knife with oil and cut out dumlings of diamond or square shapes. Carefully release them from the greased plate and set aside.
- Heat about ½ cup of mustard oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot, add the dhoka pieces one by one and fry them until golden on both sides. Do this in batches, otherwise they may break. Keep the fried dhoka on absorbent kitchen towel while you make the gravy.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wok/kadhai. Temper the hot oil with hing, dry red chilies and cumin seeds. Saute them for half a minute on medium heat until fragrant.
- Then add the potato cubes and fry them until golden brown on all sides.
- While the potatoes are frying, make a spice paste by adding ginger paste, turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder and ¼ cup of water in a small bowl. Whisk everything well to break any lumps.
- Once the potatoes are nicely fried, add the spice paste to the wok. Saute the spices on high for 2 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and oil starts to release from it.
- Then add about 1 & ½ cup of water. Add half a teaspoon of sugar and salt to taste. Bring the water to rolling boil.
- Then drop the prepared dhokas into the gravy, reduce the heat to low and let them simmer for 5 to 8 minutes. Also note that the dhokas will soak up a lot of gravies once they cool down. So keep gravy accordingly.
- Finally sprinkle the garam masala and turn the flame off. Serve the hot dhokar dalna with white rice. Enjoy!