Chanar Dal or Split Bengal Gram is the king of lentils, especially in Bengali cuisine. It is cooked with aromatic whole spices, nuts, golden raisins, coconut, dollops of ghee and served to the most cherished guests. Very few dals can be regarded as the star of the menu. They are always seen as a side which we eat as the first or second course, followed by more elaborate vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. But when guests take second and third helpings of this dal, even though they have fish and chicken in front of them, you realize how chanar dal can hold its own in any meal — it is that delicious.
Split Bengal Gram is a good source of protein, fiber, zinc and other minerals. The dish is much thicker than other lentil preparations, which gives it a soup like consistency. It is also rich due to the presence of nuts and clarified butter, and it is better to consume smaller portions in one meal. Chanar dal can be cooked without ghee or dry fruits too, if you prefer a lighter version. But it is the clarified butter, toasted coconut and raisins which take it to the next level. It is best served hot with pulao or plain rice.
Chana dal: 1 cup, washed and soaked
Water: 3 cups
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
Bay leaf: 1
Green cardamom: 1
Salt to taste
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Hing or asafoetida: 1 small pinch
Dried red chilli: 2
Bay leaf: 1
Green cardamom: 3
Cinnamon: 1 inch stick
Ginger slivers: 1/2 inch piece
Cashew nuts or almond slices: 1/4 cup
Raisins: 1/4 cup
Sugar: 1/4 tsp
Sauted coconut pieces: 1/4 cup (optional)
1) Mix all the ingredients for the dal in a pressure cooker and cook for up to 6 whistles. You can also cook it in a saucepan, but it will take more time to completely soften the lentils.
3) When the oil starts to splutter and the aroma of the spices is released, add the cooked dal to it along with 1 more cup of water. Cover and let it cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.