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Author Notes: This simple chana dal or cholar dal recipe is a childhood favorite. I grew up in Calcutta, India, and this nutty, hearty yellow lentil soup studded with pieces of translucent green bottle gourd showed up frequently at mealtimes. It's a complete and nourishing meal when served with rice or Indian style bread. The dal can be made without the bottle gourd (called lauki, available in Indian grocery stores). The asafoetida (called heeng) too, can be omitted if not readily available. However, I do recommend using the other spices - cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves and turmeric - for a warmly spiced flavor and aroma. —CalcuttaChow
- 1 cup split Bengal gram lentil, called chana dal or cholar dal
- 1/2 of a 8-inch bottle gourd, called lauki, peeled and cubed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida, called heeng
- 3-4 cloves
- 1 inch piece of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon clarified butter, called ghee (preferred) or oil
- salt to taste
- Before beginning, wash and then soak the lentils in water for an hour. Discard the water, and place the lentils and the chopped bottle gourd pieces in a pressure cooker. Add enough water to cover the lentils, such that the water level reaches about 1/4 inch above the lentils. At medium heat, wait for 3 whistles on the cooker, which is about 15 minutes of cooking time. Turn off the heat and put the cooker aside. Wait for the steam to release entirely before removing the lid. At this point the lentil and the bottle gourd should be soft and mash easily between your fingertips.
- Heat the ghee or oil in a separate heavy bottomed pot. When the ghee is hot, add the asafoetida and cumin seeds, along with the cinnamon stick and cloves. The cumin seeds should sputter a little. Immediately add the boiled lentil and bottle gourd mixture and stir. Add turmeric and salt and some water if too dry, and bring to boil on medium heat. Cook for a few minutes, before removing from the heat. You can add a pinch of garam masala if available, a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander to serve.