Dhokar Dalna (Lentil fritters in Potato & Tomato gravy) is a traditional dish from the Bengali Cuisine that’s purely satvik, which was originally created by the Bengali widows who were not allowed to eat onion or garlic. Dhokas are the fried chana dal fritters that are lightly spiced and then simmered in a gravy made with tomatoes and ginger, spiced with cumin and coriander called Dalna, a cooking term that means any vegetables cooked in a medium thick gravy seasoned with ground spices, specially withGarammasala and a touch of ghee.The dhokas are such a delight and the Dalna is so fragrant that you wouldn’t even miss onion or garlic in here.
Dhokar Dalna is a part of traditional Bengali cuisine and is somewhat similar to the besan tarkari my mother does at home. The only difference I found is that she made those from the gram flour and this one is done with soaking the daal itself. The other difference is that my mom used onion and garlic in the paste whereas this one is done without onion and garlic.
The lentil paste is cooked with a few flavorful spices to form a cake. Then that cake is cut into pieces and fried. Finally the fried lentil fritters are cooked in an aromatic gravy. The long process associated with the making of ‘dhoka‘ will not hunt you when you actually tastes the dish which is so good and unique that you won’t mind the effort put into it.
Making dhoka is easy but there are few things to pay attention to. When grinding the dal, use just enough water to reach a smooth consistency. If the mixture is too dry, the patties will crack when you fry them. For spicier dhokar dalna, supplement the recipe with green chilies. You can also mix finely grated ginger in the dal paste.
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Dhokar Dalna ( Lentil fritters in Potato & Tomato gravy)
Wash and soak the dal in plenty of water for about 5 to 6 hours or preferably overnight. Drain and keep aside. Add enough water to the dal to grind it in a food processor.
Heat up the ghee or oil over moderate heat and sauté the hing powder for about 30 seconds and then scoop in the dal paste. Keep stirring it until it thickens for about 5 minutes. As it will stick to the bottom of the pan, keep stirring. It’s ready when it pulls away from the sides and forms a solid mass. Now add the roasted jeera powder, chilli powder and salt. Mix well and spread the paste in a oiled platter. When it cools down, cut it into diamond shapes or squares.
Heat oil in a kadai and deep fry till light golden. Drain on a clean absorbent kitchen towel or paper and keep aside.
Heat up the ghee or oil in a pot. When it’s, drop in the green cardamom, bayleaf and once it starts to release its flavor, add grated ginger. When the ginger turns a little dark, add the hing powder and kalonji seeds.
Add the tomatoes and fry until they start to stick to the bottom of the pan, and the ghee or oil begins to separate from them. Add mashed potato, coriander powder, turmeric powder, roasted cumin p[owder, red chilli powder and sauté for a minute.
Now pour in the water and salt. Cook until the gravy thickens. I have used mashed potatoes to make the gravy thick. Add the fried lentils to the gravy when it is somewhat thick. Remember that the cakes will absorb liquid; you may have to add some more water if the gravy dries up.So it is better to put the dhokas in the gravy just before serving.
Add garam masala and serve hot garnished with chopped fresh coriander leaves.