We were over at our friend Rhea's place for dinner and stay-over some weekends ago. She had taken a lot of effort to prepare an all-vegetarian spread covering her entire table, but for me the star of the dinner was a dal, which i could simply not get enough of. It had such a depth of flavour, something that lingered on your taste buds even after swallowing the delicious stuff mixed with fragrant basmati rice. I just HAD TO get the recipe from her. She was nice enough to share it with me, and that too without leaving out the secret ingredient.
In this case it was a ready Dhansak Masala. Her husband K is a renowned Parsi caterer and when he recommends a brand of dhansak masala, I really don't have to think twice. It is the Mangal Dhansak Masala. While masala brands like Everest, MDH and Badshah are the ones that are advertised and much used, some of these age old brands. I had never heard about or seen this brand of masalas, even though I' m a girl who loves to linger around the spice aisles in the supermarkets....on my next visit I looked for this and I found it. The print on the box said 'Since 1912' which only made me happier :) If you do not find this masala at your grocer, you can prepare the dhansak masala from scratch, using the spices in your pantry. You'll find the recipe here. Use only the dried spices, adding the ginger garlic paste fresh whenever you make the dal.
With the secret ingredient in hand, there was nothing to stop me from making this dal the very next day for lunch and then some three times each week since then. I've been trying it with every type of dal on my shelves, sometimes a combination of whatever is left, sometimes with the addition of greens like spinach or methi, and it turns out finger licking good each and every time, and we thank Rhea silently each time we enjoy a meal with this absolutely delicious homely dal!
Without more raving, let me share the recipe with you.
1/2 cup masoor dal (skinned, split pink coloured lentils)
1/2 cup tur dal
1 tbsp sunflower oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1 heaped tsp Mangal Dhansak Masala
1 tsp salt or to taste
lots of finely chopped coriander
Wash the dals well and pressure cook them with 2- cups water till soft. Mash well with the back of a rounded ladle till smoothly pureed.
In a wok, heat the oil / ghee. Temper with cumin seeds, then add in the curry leaves, ginger garlic paste. Stir for a minute or so on low heat.
Add the onions and saute till golden brown. Stir in the dhansak masala with some water after which the mashed dal goes in.
Adjust the consistency with some water, if this is very thick. Season with salt and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander.
We've had this with rice, with rotis, with pulao and it tastes fantastic with everything. Trust me, it is totally worth it going through the trouble to find this masala in your spice aisle. Dal will never taste the same again :)
BTW, Rhea has her own food blog and you can drop by to find some authentic Bengali recipes, some Parsi recipes and her own creative stuff...She has also blogged about this dal as Parsi Masala Dal, with a slightly different version. My version is what she rattled out to me as we were stuffing the delicious dinner at her place the other night.
Here's a recipe for Parsi Dhansak from scratch that I'd blogged in 2006.