Thursday, August 29, 2013

Panchmel Daal- no onion or garlic.

Making Indian dals look appetizing in a photograph has got to be the trickiest thing ever. I haven't been able to master the art at all.  Which is one of the reasons why my dal posts lie languishing away, gathering dust for ages....as did this one. Then, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of dining with some dear friends. Her mom is visiting from India; and she had made Panchmel dal for dinner.  We played the guessing game for a while, then she finally revealed what went in the dal. I was quite surprised; mostly because despite having the same ingredients, her Panchmel tasted so different from mine.  Guess it is all in a mom's touch....!! But then that dinner prompted me to brush some dust away; and picture or not, this old post is going to see the light for for sure.

Panchmel dal- as the name suggests- is a mixture of five dals; or lentils. You usually mix the lentils with comparable cooking times. In my family, the mix is made up of skinned moong dal (split green gram), red masoor dal (whole red lentils), chane-ki-dal (split Bengal gram), arhar (split red gram) and urad dals (split black gram).  Panchmel dal as a preparation was always considered a delicacy and held in high esteem; reserved for special occasions, such as a son-in-law's visit. Typically served as an accompaniment with baati, or missi roti with dollops of hot, melted ghee on top...


Back in my naani's place, Panchmel dal was made with no green vegetables in it- which meant not even tomatoes, chillies or ginger was used. I've not been successful in getting that prep to taste the way I remember it to.  So the only things I do omit is the onion, like naani
Panchmel Dal
Lentils used in making Panchmel dal
Equal measure of the five dals to make about 1 cup total:
Moong dal
Red Masoor dal
Chana dal
Arhar/toor dal
and Urad dal *
2 cups water to cook the dal, plus more to wash

One small tomato chopped
3-4 green chillies
1inch piece of ginger, chopped

Salt and red chilli powder to tatse
1/4tsp turmeric powder

Seasoning:
1Tbsp ghee
1/2 Tbsp cumin seeds
Hing/ asafoetidia powder a small pinch
1/4tsp red chilli powder
2-3 whole red dried chillies
  1. Pick and wash the dals together and soak for about 30min. to an hour.
  2. Then pressure cook the dals together with tomato, green chillies, ginger, salt and turmeric till done (about 15-20 min.) If not using a pressure cooker, the time and quantity of water may vary.
  3. To season, heat ghee and splutter the cumin seeds in it. Turn off the stove, and quickly add the hing, red chilli powder and dried red chillies in the hot ghee. Stir for a minute or so, then immediately pour the mix over Panchmel dal.
  4. Serve hot with a wedge of lemon, to be squeezed in as needed.
My two cents: *Traditionally, my mom would use the dehusked urad dal, which is yellow in color, in this recipe. I have never developed a taste for that particular bean. In my opinion, for whatever it is worth, yellow urad dal is a slimy, nasty thing...! So I use the black one, which still has it's skin on intact and tends not to get as glutinous as the yellow one.
Hing is the other thing- a highly aromatic spice, the smell and flavor requires some getting used to. Exercise caution when using it. Too much, can leave a bitter aftertaste that isn't easy to wash off!
And finally, the dal tastes like neither of its components, if you get the mix right. Panchmel dal is simply in a class of it own...

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