The Parsi Maa Ki Dal You Did Not Know About
A lesser-known vegetarian dish
I recently hosted a cooking class on Parsi food for a girl from New York. We got talking on what her biggest revelation was from her trip to India and she gave me a one-word answer, dal. Until this trip, she had never had dal or a lentil soup of any kind and she told me she was in love. For me, and I think most Indians, who are brought up on a steady diet of lentils, having dal is akin to soul food. If I close my eyes as I eat a spoonful of dal, it brings back feelings of being home or of being cuddled into a warm blanket on a chilly day.
If you were to eat out, the two kinds of dal you will see the most are the yellow tadka dal or the Punjabi Kaali Dal, which are both heavy and resplendent in ghee. It’s sad because dal cooked at home is rarely like that and is actually super healthy to eat.
When it comes to Parsi dals most have heard of Dhansak and people are now even attuned with its humble cousin, Dhandar-Patio, which is a simpler version of the Tadka Dal served with piquant prawns. However, when it comes to comfort food, nothing beats Masoor, made with the brown masoor dal and not the orange version of the lentil.
I love it because not only is it easy to cook, but it also goes well with rice as well as roti. Since most Parsis think apocalypse is coming if they go for a day without meat, in Parsi homes Masoor is often served with mutton cooked inside it to make Masoor-ma-Gosht. Thankfully, I don’t know anyone who has come up with Masoor per Eeda (Eggs on Masoor Dal) just yet but l must say that leftover Masoor inside a sandwich with some cheese or an omelette make for a great breakfast or snack.
For me, Masoor is best had without any meat and has the potential of being the Parsi equivalent of the Punjabi ‘Maa Ki Dal’. In fact, if I were honest I would go as far to say that I like our version better as it often comes sans the dollops of ghee and is the perfect Sunday breakfast – I remember a big bowl of Masoor with Brun Pav was the first thing we used to eat upon reaching Udvada with the customary plate of Khurchan. However, if big breakfasts are not your thing, Masoor is a great companion for a quiet weeknight TV dinner too.
The best part about Masoor is that the entire dish cooks in 3 steps. Here’s how you can whip up some Masoor in your home too.
Recipes for Masoor (Serves 4)
2 cups black masoor dal
1/2-cup orange masoor dal
1 onion finely chopped
2 tablespoon oil
1.5 teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoon red chilli powder
0.5 teaspoon Dhansak masala
Approximately 1.5 – 2 cups water
Salt to taste (about 2 tsp.)
1. To begin, soak your dal for atleast two hours or preferably overnight – this helps reduce the cooking time.
2. Once soaked, in a pressure cooker add some onion and sauté until golden brown.
3. Add in all the spices and mix well until their aroma wafts into your kitchen.
4. Once the masalas are cooked, add in the masoor and water ensuring that the water comes just over the masoor – you don’t want to make this too liquidy and since we’re not going to whisk the dal, this is a crucial step.
5. Let this cook for two whistles and ten minutes on slow. Give it another 10 mins on slow if you didn’t soak your dal, as some extra cooking will be needed.
6. Garnish with coriander and serve hot along with some kachumbar making sure to squeeze in some lemon.