Dal Bat - Rajasthan, India.
By Etan Doronne
30 Jan 2010
The Rajasthani cuisine does not have representation in the USA restaurant scene. As I was preparing a workshop around Rajasthani cooking for the Palos Verdes library in California, I wanted to collaborate with a local Rajasthani restaurant yet non was found. Even the more common Indian restaurants that cook Punjubi and Gujarati style (kitchen from other states in India) wouldn't dare cooking Rajasthani food as they claimed it takes a life time to master the process and taste of a different Indian cuisine. Eventually, after some deep research, emailing and contacts I got to the president of the Rajasthani Northern America Association who personally cooked an authentic dish of Cadi, a type of a yogurt chutney and was an honored guest of the workshop that hosted 80 participants.
The Indian kitchen infrastructure is very basic. Usually it consists of a double burner, a few jars of spices, a cutting board and a sack of wheat flour or rice. Yet the cooking itself is quite elaborate although when you get the basics you can easily follow other dishes and improvise. Compared to the western tradition, an Indian recipe is cooked in separate pots and combined in a gradual process. That obtains the right type of cooking for every part of the type of food (spices, grains, lentil, vegetables etc...)
Ganesh is a tailor and the owner of a Dukhan (a booth at the street market). He arrives every season to Bhagsu and creates any imaginative clothing piece that you can come up with. His brother Ram is less passionate about stitching but very passionate about preparing his beloved Dal Bat dish and other home foods. As they are thousands of miles away from their home village in Rajasthan, they cook at their room every evening. Indian are very attached to their authentic local dishes and wouldn't willingly eat out in another state.
Shir was residing in the same guest house I did, up the hill from Ganesh workshop and was joyfully joining our Rajasthani evening gatherings.
Since the room is small there is a bed on which 3 people sleep every night, which doubles as a sitting and dining area too.
Rais works for Ganesh. His home village is in Rajasthan as well and he is Muslim, not Hindu as Ganesh and Ram are. We became friends and after the pleasant season in the north ended, he invited me to travel with him back to his village, stay with his family and share the celebration of Eid El Phiter, the last day of the month of Ramadan fast.
The national Rajasthani dish
(prep for 6 servings)
Wash 250 gr. Mix of Mung Dal (Tiny 3 mm green colored) and Masur Dal (small 5 mm orange colored)
Cook for 5 minutes in a pressure cooker with an equal amount of water, then set aside for 10 minutes, with pot still covered .
Chop and dice:
2 tbs of finely chopped garlic.
2 hot green chili peeper into thin rings.
1 small ginger peeled and diced into 5 mm.
1 big onion dice into 1 cm.
2 medium tomatoes dice into 1 cm.
Mix into a bowl:
1 heaping tbs (tablespoonful) cayenne pepper (Indian say "chili)
1 tbs salt
1/2 tbs turmeric
1 cup of water
Put 1/3 cup of oil in a pot and heat
Add 1 tbs of cumin (Jeera)
After 30 seconds add the onion, ginger and green chili pepper.
After 3 minutes add the garlic.
Cook 2 minutes while stiring until onions goldens.
Then add the mixture of spices (from above) with a 1/4 cup of water.
Cook for another 2 minutes.
Lower the flame and all the dal from the pressure cooker and 1/2 a cup of water.
Cook for 5 minutes and then add the tomatoes.
Preparation of rolls (Bati)
Sift 1 1/2 kg. Of white flour (preferably coarse ground) (250 gr. Per diner)
1 heaping tbs. of salt
2 heaping tbs of cumin.
1/2 tbs baking powder.
Knead as you add water.
Add 2 tbs of oil.
Knead with your fists until the dough is not sticky.
Roll up 2 inch balls.
Bake for 30 minutes in a Rajasthani oven or above a heavy skillet placed above the flame inside a covered barbecue grill.
* TBS in this recipe is a size of a silverware spoon.
* Whole wheat can substitute white wheat.
* Yogurt can be added.
* Coriander seeds can be added
Here's a short video where we're cooking and the scenes around McLeod-Ganj/Bhagsu in Himachal pradesh, Nepal and my friends' native place: Pushkar/Ajmer area in Rajasthan
More stories of my experiences backpacking rural India for 2 years on http://jpgmag.com/people/etand/stories