Thursday, 1 May 2014

Kacha Aamer Tok Daal (Soupy Red Lentils with Raw Mango)

Daal is something which no Bengali household can do without. A bhaja (Vegetable dry fry) and daal (lentil soup) are a staple part of a square meal every day. Whether it’s the aristocratic Cholar daal , the royal Macher Matha die Bhaja Muger Daal, the bitter variant of Ucche die Motor Daal, the quintessential Panch foron die Kolai Daal or the very common almost untold of Musurir Daal.
Even though daal is such an essential part of our meal, I have occasionally found that in many Bengali household a soupy concoction of yellow water and par boiled lentils are dished out in the name of traditional daals. And I tend to get very cranky if the daal is bad. As a conclusion I have inferred that perfecting this unassuming part of our daily meal is also an art.  Even if I say so myself (or all those people who were fortunate enough to taste my cooking), I do make pretty good Daals.
Still you would find the number of Daal recipes being very less compared to others just because I find taking good photographs of Daals very difficult. Or rather distinguishing one daal from the other through the photographs is a bit messy work. But still I decided to post this recipe because it’s a very relevant recipe for the summer days.

As the mercury starts to sky rocket and the sun starts to beat down mercilessly, the typical Bengali meal transitions into fares which helps to beat the heat and are easy on the stomach. Tok literally means sour in Bengali. So today I am going to talk about a daal which has a sour taste. The Tok Daal as we Bengalis lovingly call it is a light soupy comfort food for the sweltering summer days. A simple daal made with raw green mangos the signature fruit of summer, red lentil and minimal amount of seasoning.

The summer months in Kharagpur used to be very treacherous. Extreme climate was a characteristic of the place I spent my childhood. Be it heavy downpour during the rainy season, or the impregnable fog which made my school vanish once, or the infamous heat wave of the summer we saw it all. We had a nice market which got all the farm fresh produce of the season. I loved to go to the morning Haat with my daddy. While he shopped I used to gawk at the riot of colorful vegetables and fruits. I had fallen in love with the vegetable markets all around the world from that time itself and the romance still continues. The meticulous way of hand weighing and smelling of the vegetables by the elders to estimate its freshness and the incessant haggling with the shopkeeper till they were satisfied was more interesting to watch than a daily soap. As the summers came the markets got flooded with a multitude of Mangoes – both raw and ripe. Mangoes was loved by all in our household hence both the forms were purchased in bulk – the ripe ones for milkshakes and having as is and the raw ones for making Toker daal and chutneys. Raw mangoes were also consumed as Aam Makha – a tangy spicy concoction of grated mangoes, green chilies, salt and a hint of sugar. Ma and Baba were both fond of sour mangoes and sour preparations. But two things I really detested during my childhood days were the sour and the bitter tasting dishes. However I would force eat both of them grudgingly.
As my dad loved to have Tok Daals during summer afternoon hence it was mandatory for ma to cook them each afternoon along with tok and ambol two other sour preparation.  Bengalis never use tamarind in the Daals. Hence the sourness would be a result of either raw tomatoes or raw mangoes. If you ever have had the chance to try some Tok Daal during summer months you will know how refreshing it is to have the daal in your meal after you have just come out of the sun. It sourness acts as an appetizer as well because otherwise the extreme heat usually slows down your metabolism and you don’t feel like eating.

My likes and dislikes in food just reversed with passing time. Now I absolutely love bitter and sour dishes. But as luck would have it, my husband is not a lover of either of them – he’s just a shadow of what I used to be as a kid in matters of food. The first time I had tried making tok daal it ended up in a disaster. I had pressure cooked the mangoes and daal together which made the daal terribly sour and my husband refused to have it after the first ladle. When I asked my mother what went wrong, she pointed out that mangoes shouldn't be boiled along with daal if I wanted to have just the feel of sourness and not an extreme sour daal. This time I followed her instructions to the T and got rewarding results. I made the perfect talk daal!

Before I hear that snigger coming from some of you stating what's there to be so proud about making tok daal, let me say well to make that perfect Tok Daal - a blend of right amount of sweet and sourness that works like a magic potion on those hot and sultry summer afternoons when the thick curtains are drawn and the fans are on full swing, is a real art. Try it once and you will know where I am coming from. And when I told one of my Bengali Colleagues who is a bachelor that I had made aam daal, she gushed and said "Oh my God you know how to make Tok Daal! My mother can't make tok daal even today!" With that I rest my case here.  Check out the recipe below:

Preparation Time: 5 minutes  

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 2

Cuisine: Bengali 
Ingredients:
  • Red Split Lentil (Masoor Daal) - 1 cup
  • Dried Red Chilli - 2
  • Mustard Seed - 1 tsp
  • Raw Mango (Medium) - 1/2 
  • Turmeric
  • Salt & Sugar as per taste
  • Mustard Oil for tempering


Procedure:

1. Peel the skin of the mango and cube them into small pieces. Cut the flesh around the seed. Make sure not to cut through the seed as it may make the daal dark and astringent.

2. Wash the daal and pressure cook it with double the amount of water. I dont put salt or turmeric while pressure cooking the daal. Cook for two whistles or as required by the quality of daal you are using.

3. Whisk the pressure cooked daal with a ladle or wire whisk so that a thick consistency is formed.


4. Heat oil in a wok. Temper the oil with mustard seeds and red chillis. Cover the lid while the mustard seeds splutter. 

5. Now toss in the raw mango cubes and fold in. Add two table spoon of water and medium the flame. Cover the lid and let the mango cook. It will take roughly 4-5 minutes for the mangoes to become tender enough. Take care not to over cook the mangoes as they will become mushy and when mixed with daal will render it more sour.

6. Now add the whisked daal into the wok and mix well. Add turmeric, salt and suger. Make sure not to overdo the sugar part. We want our daal to be a perfect balance of tanginess. Sugar will balance the salt and sour level. I added 1/2 tsp of sugar.



7. Cover the lid and cook for a couple of minutes till the daal boils. Turn off the heat and let it rest for a while to soak in the flavours of the spices and the raw mango to release its sourness.

Serve with steamed rice. I prefer to have some sweet vegetable dish with the sour daal like potoler dolma. But you can serve it with any vegetable dish.

1. Don't Pressure cook the daal and the raw mangoes together if you want to have control over the sourness of the daal. Once I had done that which resulted in an extreme sour daal as the raw mangoes had completely dissolved into the daal. Raw mangoes are easy to cook so cook them seperately for a few minutes before adding the boiled daal.
2. This recipe can also be applied for Motor Daal.


Ending today's post with a few beautiful lines I came across in a blog 

"Childhood, indeed
Reminds me of mangoes
Their sweet, warm smell
After long heavy meals with cousins.
There was always space
For just one more.
One more mango.
One more siesta.
One more, one last story.
One more childhood."


Sending this to the ongoing event of the Kolkata Food Bloggers:



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