Saturday, March 7, 2009
We've been trying to perfect a household dal for a while (sometimes getting stymied by lack of Indian ingredients). And then we went to the motherland of dal, learned this recipe, and hit on perfection. Bananas are a favorite special occasion dinner ingredient around here, particularly because one of us wrote a senior thesis in college about bananas and needs to periodically bombard the other one with random trivia about ripening stages.
We've made a few adaptations at home to personalize this recipe and tweak it for the American stove. Instead of grated fresh coconut, which is used in Kerala, we've substituted coconut milk and grated dessicated coconut. This recipe was presented to us with toor dal, but we used chana dal instead because that's our favorite. We also added some tomato paste and ginger.
1 cup chana dal (or toor dal, or just plain yellow split peas)
6 cups water
2 green bananas, sliced (we're referring here to the most unripe bananas you can find in your produce section, not to unripe plantains)
4 large shallots - two for paste, two sliced into rings
1/4 cup grated coconut
4 cloves garlic
1-inch piece of ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1-2 sprigs curry leaves
1 dried red chile
1 green chile, sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 cup coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
about 1 teaspoon salt
Bring dal and water to boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes or until dal is soft. Add bananas when dal is nearly done and simmer gently for five more minutes.
Meanwhile, grind two of the shallots with the garlic, ginger and cumin in a food processor until you have a coarse paste. Add the grated coconut last, and pulse a few more times.
Heat the coconut oil in a wok on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and pop. Add curry leaves and dried red chile and stir for a minute. Add the two sliced shallots and chile and fry until browned, stirring continuously. Add the tumeric and stir to coat the shallots. Stir in the garlic/shallot paste and keep it moving until the raw smell is gone and there's a nice golden color.
Add the contents of the wok, the tomato paste and the coconut milk into the pot with the dal and banana. Stir to mix, then simmer for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld the flavors and allow the banana to fully cook. Add salt and serve with a delicious flatbread -- the one shown here is uttapam.