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Cathy Katin-Grazzini

Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC


Cholar Dal


This beguiling Bengali dal stars chana dal from brown desi chickpeas. This dish combines sweet with spice. The sweetness comes from Indian bay leaf, sweet aromatic spices, and delightful Indian raisins.  Green Thai and dry Indian red chilies lend some gentle heat. Like many Bengali dishes, onion and garlic is supplanted by pungent asafoetida. Cholar dal typically fries coconut meat in mustard oil and tempers its spices in ghee. However, this very low-fat version ditches the fats and uses coconut extract to perfume the dish.


Prep time Overnight soak of chana dal plus 40 minutes to cook the chickpeas and prep the rest

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 5


1 ½ cups chana dal, rinsed and soaked

2 large Indian bay leaves

¼ teaspoon Bengal garam masala from freshly ground 2-inch Ceylon cinnamon stick, 7 green cardamom pods, and 5 cloves, or to taste

1½ -inch piece of ginger, ground into a paste

¼ teaspoon freshly ground asafoetida (hing)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin powder

2 tablespoons date paste from ½ cup pitted dates

1 5-inch Ceylon cinnamon stick

½ teaspoon cumin seed

½ teaspoon green cardamom seeds or 1 teaspoon pods

2 cloves

2 dried red Indian chilies

2 large green Thai chilis, partially slit

½ cup jumbo black kali kishmis, green hunza , and/or red monukka raisins (or other varieties)

1 to 2 teaspoons coconut extract

1 tablespoon shiro (mild white) miso paste, diluted in 1 tablespoon water, or to taste


Wash and soak the chana dal overnight or for 8 hours. Drain and add them to a medium-sized pot. Cover with water by 1 inch and add the Indian bay leaves. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender but intact, about 40 minutes but it could be more or less, depending on the age of the chana. Test them periodically.  If the dal absorbs all its water, add more to cover.


Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the spices for the Bengal garam masala. We will only use ¼ to ½ teaspoon here. Store the extra in a spice jar in a dark, cool cupboard and use within a month.


Grind the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and asafoetida.


Mince the ginger and use a mortar and pestle to grind into a paste, adding a few drops of water if required.


To make the date paste, add the dates to a small bowl, just cover with water and microwave for 2 minutes. Alternatively, simmer on the stovetop in a small pot for 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer the dates and their soaking liquid to a high-speed blender and blend them into a smooth, soft paste. We will use only 2 tablespoons for this recipe. Store the excess in the fridge in a tightly-lidded container and use within a month.


Slit the green chilies about 1/3 down their length.


In a small bowl combine the ginger paste, date paste, turmeric, and freshly ground coriander, cumin, and asafoetida powders. Add about ½ cup of water or more to mix into a slurry.


Heat a skillet on medium for 3 minutes. Add the dried red and cook for 1 minute. Add the cinnamon stick, cumin seed, green cardamom, and cloves and cook for about a minute, just until they become fragrant and before they smoke. Do not over cook the spices of they will burn and become acrid.


Stir in the slurry and the slit green chilies. Cook for a minute, adding more water if the mix becomes dry. Mix in the cooked chana dal and enough of its cooking liquid to create a moist but not soupy dal. Stir well to combine. Stir in the raisins, Bengal garam masala, and coconut extract. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes to meld the flavors. Remove from the heat and stir in the diluted shiro miso. Taste and correct seasonings as you like.


Serve the dal on the dense side for most applications but dilute with a little more water if you plate it over brown basmati rice or another whole grain so it can penetrate and flavor the grains.

Cholar Dal

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