Daal Shukno or Dal Shukhono is a simple, yet delicious Bengali dish made with red lentils, which can be served as a first or second course with rice during lunch or dinner. Better still, it can also be served as the only course in a Bengali meal. As a Bengali commoner would do in Gram Bangla (villages of Bengal), it is also a great breakfast accompaniment with Panta Bhaat or fermented leftover rice. These rustic countryside dishes such as Daal Shukno, Panta Bhaat, Shutki, etc., are making a comeback slowly… thanks to the blogging world and passionate Bengali foodies scattered all around the world who take pleasure and feel proud to share these Bengali recipes and dishes that people are slowly doing away with.
Frugal dishes of Bengal, made with leftovers!
Dal Shukno is a dish that’s an example of Bengali-style food preservation and utilisation of leftover food. In olden days, when there was no refrigerator and people used to live in joint families, food was precious. Bengal even experienced famine in its history, so a true Bengali homemaker who is rooted to the real Bengali ways of cooking loves to practise almost zero food wastage, just like a common Bengali grandmother would cook in her times. Did you know that there is a dish called Khosha Chocchori or Khosha Bhaja that exists in rural Bengal which uses only the skins or peels of various vegetables to make a delectable dish? Another example of cooking with vegetable peels, is the Lauer Khosha Chocchori, which is made with Bottle gourd peels, and is one of my favourite Bengali dishes. Another frugal Bong accompaniment, which is a celebration dish too, is called Kanta Chocchori: made with offals of fish, like the bones, head, skin and edible intestinal parts. And then there is Maacher Teler Bora, green-chilli-laden fritters made with fish fat of Katla. Bengalis like me would go to any extent to get hold of Ilish Maacher Tel, which is simply the residual leftover mustard oil, infused with the fatty oils of an adult aromatic Hilsa or Ilish fish. This residual oil is what we get after frying a generous batch of Hilsa/Ilish pieces in hot mustard oil. How do we eat that? Simply mix it with steamed rice (boiled and unpolished rice would be better!), along with salt and green chillies. I can eat a big heap of rice with just this fragrant oil. Do I hear my Bengali friends resonating with me on these dishes? I am sure.
Dal Shukno or Dal Shukono is one such frugal dish. The main ingredient of this dish is leftover Musurir Dal or Masoor Dal (cooked red lentils). You also need good-quality tamarind pulp and some regular jaggery (no need of the premium Nolen Gur here!) or sugar. The Dal is evaporated first and then tamarind is added. Chopped green chillies are also added to this. The mixture has to be stirred continuously till it almost dries out. Finally, adjust the salt and jaggery (or sugar). The dried dollop of tangy and spicy dal can be had with a generous spoonful of pungent Mustard oil and Toasted or fried red chillies by its side.
Dal Shukno is a great accompaniment with Panta Bhat (the recipe existed even before 17th century) for a traditional peasant-style Bengali breakfast. The latter is made by keeping cooked rice submerged in some water overnight at room temperature. The rice gets fermented and a sour taste develops. Panta Bhaat is shown in the main picture. It is accompanied with raw onions, lemon juice, salt, green chillies and mustard oil. People generally love to eat something spicy or tangy or both, along with sleep-inducing Panta Bhaat. The common accompaniments are Bengali dishes like Alu-Sheddho Makha (boiled and mashed potatoes mixed with other ingredients), Shutki (spicy dried fish), Daler Bora (fritters of pulses), Peyaji (onion pakoras), Maach Bhaja (fried fish), Daal Shukno, etc. While I have to still develop a taste for Panta Bhaat, the Dal Shukno is very flavourful with steamed rice as well. You hardly need any other accompaniment after eating this! Not even fish. Period.
Daal Shukno (An Old-School Bengali Dish Using Leftover Cooked Dal)
- Cooked Masoor Dal in Bengali style: 3 cups
- Tamarind pulp: 3 tbsp
- Regular jaggery powder or sugar: 3 tbsp
- Salt: ½ tsp
- Finely chopped fiery green chillies: 3
- Pungent _Kacchi Ghani_ Mustard oil: 1.5 tbsp
- Dried red chillies toasted or fried: 2
- Evaporate the water from the cooked dal by stirring it continuously over fire. Add the tamarind paste and cook further, till almost all the water is gone and the mixture is almost dry.
- Add the chopped green chillies at cook for 2 min. The mixture has to be stirred continuously till it almost dries out. Finally, adjust the salt and jaggery (or sugar).
- The dried dollop of tangy and spicy dal can be had with a generous spoonful of pungent mustard oil and toasted/fried dried red chillies by its side.
- Enjoy with steamed rice or with Panta Bhaat.