Saturday, 16 February 2013

Channa Daal & GT Road

Whoever has traveled on GT Road in Pakistan knows what a driver hotel or a Manji hotel is. Four words: Truck drivers, plenty of Manjis(Punjabi word for beds), karak doodh patti and affordably epic desi food. That’s where all the long haul trucks make stops to eat, drink and rest before heading to another stretch of their tiring trucking journeys. The GT Road or The Grand Truck road is South Asia’s oldest and the longest road originally built to link eastern & western regions of sub-continent. The road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri in 16th Century. This road is still an integral part of road network in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. 

Before Islamabad – Lahore Motorway was built in 1997; GT Road was the only way to get in to Rawalpindi from any other part of Punjab. My only living grand parents lived in Rawalpindi and regardless of where we were posted in Pakistan due to my father’s job, summer holidays were spent with my grandparents in Rawalpindi meaning traveling on GT Road was a must. At Lala Musa on GT Road (half way between Lahore and Rawalpindi) there was (and still is) a truck restaurant named Mianjee restaurant. The place is known for its Channa Daal(Chickpea Lentil) and parathay. I have never forgotten the taste of that daal/Lentil. It has taken me many attempts in kitchen and a lot of effort to come up with a taste for Channa daal close enough to Mianjee’s daal. 

Here is the recipe. This version of daal is served with home made chappati - flat bread or Tandoori Roti.

Channa Daal (Chickpeas Lentil) – 1 cup (washed and soaked in water overnight)
Onions – 2 finely chopped
Tomatoes – 3 medium sized (Pureed with 2 green chilies)
Ginger/Garlic Paste – 1 Tbsp
Cumin (zeera) – 1 tsp (Partially crushed in pastel mortar)
Cinnamon – 2-3 sticks
Black Cardamom – 2
Dried Red Chilies – 2 (whole)
Curry Leaves – 6-8 fresh or 4-5 dried
Red chili Powder – ½ Tsp
Turmeric – ¼ Tsp
Salt – ¾ Tsp (Adjust more as per taste)
Dried Kasuri Methi – ½ tsp
Oil – 3 Tbsp
Water – 500 ml
For Tarka – Butter, Onions, Cumin, mustard seeds, green chilies, curry leaves, Coriander.

Soak 1 cup of Chickpea Lentil in water over night. It will swell up and become more than 2 ½ cups. Drain the water before cooking.
  1. In a pan heat oil. Add onions and let them brown.
  2. Now add ginger garlic paste, Cumin, Dried whole chilies, Cinnamon and cardamoms.
  3. Fry till ginger garlic paste becomes golden.
  4.  Now add tomato puree and cook for 3 – 4 mins.
  5. Then add salt, chili powder and turmeric and cook for another 2 mins.
  6. Add chickpea Lentil and mix.
  7. Now add 500 ml of water and half of curry leaves and let the lentils boil on high heat. 
  8. As soon as it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan for 30-35 mins.
  9. Mix from time to time and check the amount of water as well as the tenderness of the Lentil.
  10.  This lentil takes a long time to cook and soaking it overnight considerably reduces the cooking time.  If the lentil still has a bite after 30 mins of cooking then add 200 ml of water. Let it simmer on low flame till it is completely cooked and Lentil is soft.
  11. Leave some liquid as the gravy. The Lentil will soak it up later as it cools down.
  12. Now sprinkle Dried Kasuri Methi and mix the daal.
  13. Dish the daal/Lentil in to a bowl.
  14. Do a tarka on daal with the ingredients mentioned earlier. Butter is the magic ingredient here.

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