The unmistakable nutty scent draws me, just awaken by the cacophony of birds in the backyard trees, to the kitchen. My olfactory senses don’t betray me, Maa is already in the kitchen, seated in front of the mud oonoon (oven), dry roasting moong dal in Grandmas ancient iron kadai.
Still half asleep and in a trance, I tiptoe right up to her, taking utmost care to not alert her. But despite all my earnest enterprise at successfully launching a covert operation, she calls out – How many times do I need to tell you not to rub your eyes ? Does she have eyes at the back of her head, hidden behind those black tresses ? I wonder. As I have often done on many a sultry afternoon.
I place my palm in front of her. She gives me a frown, a-frown-thats-really-not-a-frown, picks up a couple of moong dal grains, now speckled with tiny dots of brown on the pale yellow, with her deft fingers, from the scalding heat of the kadai (how does she manage to not singe her fingers ? my bewildered mind asks), blows onto them to pacify the heat and places the roasted dal on my still outstretched palm.
The dal disappears in a jiffy.
And I am back with a stretched palm again.
Maa gives me a frown again, this time a-frown-thats-actually-a-frown, I cower behind her, tugging her saree aanchal and repeat along with her – You know what happens when you eat too much of this, don’t you ? You get a bad stomach ache.
Maa now pours cold water onto the now-brown dal, the sizzling sound, as the cold splashes on the red hot, is music to my ecstatic ears.
Maa I want that sound again, I entreat, and then repeat the answer along with her – You won’t get that again.
This is the story of Maa and me, everytime she made her delicious bhaja moong dal.
Here’s her recipe of the bhaja moong dal, a must try the next time you yearn for this quintessential Bengali delicacy.
Motorshuti Diye Bhaja Moong Dal (Bengali moong dal with peas)
- 1 cup sona moong dal or yellow moong dal split
- 1/4 cup green peas
- 2 tsps panchforon
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 - 3 dry red chillies broken
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsps ginger grated
- 2 tsps mustard oil
- 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
- a pinch of sugar
- salt to taste
- Dry roast the moong dal in pan till golden brown. Wash and soak it for 15-20 minutes. Drain the dal. Keep aside.
- Cook the moong dal with 11/2 cups of water until just cooked. Care needs to be taken that the dal does not become too mushy.
- Heat oil in pan, when smoking hot, add the paanch phoron, bay leaves and broken red chillies. Allow them to splutter.
- Dissolve turmeric powder in a little water and add the paste to the pan. Now add the grated ginger and saute for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the boiled dal, throw in the peas and bring to a simmer. Check the consistency of the dal, it should be slightly thick, if too thick, add some warm water.
- Add sugar. Adjust seasonings and finish with a dollop of ghee and garam masala powder.
- Serve hot with rice.