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Louki Chana Dal

Chana Dal Purée with Tender Bottle Gourd Cubes



"I first came across this dish at the famous Radha-Ramana Temple in Vrindavan, India," writes Yamuna Devi about this delicious soup. "The cooks there are excellent and the kitchen standards are high. The balance of textures and flavors impressed me that I immediately inquired about the recipe. The bottle gourd can be replaced by zucchini and if adjustments are made in cooking times, you'll get a good copy of the original. Bottle gourd, called louki or ghiya in Hindi, is a fine-grained, white-fleshed summer squash that does not become waterlogged or mushy when cooked to tenderness. It is not a common supermarket item, but is often available in Indian, Chinese, and Italian grocery stores. By the time the squash reaches the market, it usually requires peeling and seeding. The soft green outer skin can be removed with a potato peeler and the seedy inner core discarded. The firm flesh is then ready to be cut. Alternatively, any young, tender summer squash can be used—green or yellow zucchini or summer pattypan."

Bottle gourd is called "opo squash" in Chinese grocery stores, according to e-mail from Jan Padilla.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry chana dal
  • 1 cup rice
  • 7 cups water (or less if you want this dish to be more of a stew and less of a soup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon scraped, finely shredded or minced fresh ginger
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 pieces louki1
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1-2 whole dried red (or fresh) chilies
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon yellow asafetida powder2
  • 6-8 curry leaves, preferably fresh3

Preparation:

  • Sort, wash, and drain the chana dal. Place the chana dal in a bowl, cover with 3 cups of hot water and let soak for 5 hours. Drain.
  • Place the chana dal, rice, 7 cups of water, turmeric, coriander, ginger, and a spoonful of the oil in a heavy 3-quart nonstick saucepan over high heat. Stiring frequently, bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and boil gently for 1 1/2 hours. Off the heat, uncover and add the zucchini and garam masala. Stir and continue to cook gently for 30 minutes or until the dal is soft and fully cooked and the vegetables are butter-soft. Stir in the salt and lemon or lime juice.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan over moderate to moderately high heat. When it is hot, add the cumin and red chilies. Fry until the cumin seeds turn brown. Add the asafetida powder and curry leaves, cook for just 1-2 seconds and then quickly pour the fried seasonings into the cooked dal. Cover immediately and allow the seasonings to soak into the hot dal for 1-2 minutes. Stir. Serve with 2 pieces of zucchini in each portion.

Source:

Adapted from Yamuna Devi, Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987), 799 pages. Thanks to Don White for bringing this wonderful cookbook to my attention.

Note:

1I substitute zuchinni and similar summer squashes and prefer many more pieces.

1Asafetida is known as hing in Hindi and Bengali. This amount applies only to yellow Cobra brand; reduce any other asafetida by three-fourths.

2Curry leave is known as meetha neem or kadhi patta, the powerfully fragrant small leaf of the plant Murraya koenigii. These look like miniature lemon leaves. Fresh curry leaves are sold at most Indian grocery stores. They keep well in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks. If you cannot use all that you purchase, air-dry them on a towel until shriveled and brittle. Storebought dry leaves lack flavor, much like dried parsley does, and moreover, because they are delicate and rarely packaged in jars, they are usually crushed and past their prime. If the bulk of the leaves are not whole, with a noticeably olive-green tint, avoid them; they will lend little more than bulk.

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Last modified: August 31, 2004

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