Summer holiday’s while growing up meant waiting for all my aunts (Father’s sisters) coming down from their respective cities with all my cousins to spend a few weeks with us. It used to be one of the most exciting times of the year for us, something we looked forward to. Our large ancestral house bursting to its seams with kids and grown-ups yelling, screaming, laughing and having fun was what life was all about.
Ulhasnagar is a quaint town not known for anything much except being a butt of jokes because it was a hub of the manufacturing fake goods and Poppadoms. Established after partition when the Sindhis moved to India as refufees, everyone always made fun of the fact that we lived there. However, for those who grew up in the city knew that it was also a place where you got fantastic street food.
There was always an excuse to step out of the house with everyone in tow to go and eat some delicacy that one of the aunts was craving for. There was always time at disposal even after a long day of shopping to stop at the local favorite roadside shop to indulge in some delicious treat or the other.
From “Ragda Pattice”, “Butter Papdi”, “Dahi Vade” and “Gulab Jamun” our mouths would work in unison scoffing down one treat after the other. But the dish that would be the highlight that everyone craved for was “Dal Pakwan”. Dal is your basic Chana dal cooked with Onions & Tomatoes and Pakwan is deep fried crispy pooris that are not fluffy. The dish is then served with chopped Onions, Green Chutney, and Tamarind Chutney. It was a very popular dish that everyone enjoyed.
A small hole in the wall shack near our house served the best Dal Pakwan in Ulhasnagar. It was so popular that every day the stock would be over within 2 hours of the shop opening. We would prepare a task force who would carry steel Tiffins for the piping hot dal and packets of Pakwan back home. Everyone woke up at 5 am sharp to get ready and out of the door to wait in anticipation outside the restaurant to wait for the Pakwan to be fried and the Dal to be dished out. The smell of the Pakwans being fried would almost make us dizzy with hunger.
We would come back to piping hot cups of Chai and eager, hungry tummies ready to devour this delicacy. Served with an assortment of spicy & sweet chutney and raw onions, this was a treat that we just could never get enough of. My family has now moved away from Ulhasnagar. All the cousins are grown up and moved on with their lives. But when nostalgia comes knocking at my doorsteps, I make “Dal Pakwan” a dish of my childhood which now seems a very long time ago.
Cooking time 60 minutes serves 4
Ingredients for the Dal
1 ½ Coffee cup Chana Dal
1 Green chilly finely chopped
2 Tomatoes pureed
1 Onion finely chopped
1 Tsp Cumin seeds
Two tsp Vegetable Oil
1 ½ tsp Red Chilly powder
Salt to taste
Two tsp Turmeric powder
For the Garnish (for the dal)
Freshly chopped Coriander
Green Coriander Chutney (Fresh Coriander ground to a paste along with water, salt, 1/2 Onion, green chillies, juice of 1 lemon and 2 cloves of Garlic)
Tamarind Chutney (a ball of Tamarind soaked in ½ cup of hot water and squeezed)
Cooking the Dal:
Soak the Dal in water for at least 30 minutes.
Wash the Dal under running water and put it in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water, finely chopped Green chilly, Salt and 1 tsp Turmeric.
Cook for 2- 3 whistles and turn off the heat. If you are cooking the Dal in a bowl cook the Dal till almost done, we don’t want the Dal to be too mushy.
When ready to serve heat oil in a pan and add the Cumin seeds and Onion. Saute till the onion is almost done and add the Tomato Puree and cook. Add the red chili powder, remaining turmeric powder and salt to season.
Add the dal and let it cook on a low flame for 10 minutes before turning off the heat.
Ingredients for the Pakwan
3 cups plain Flour (Maida)
Salt to taste
Water to knead the dough
1 tsp Ajwain (Carrom seeds)
Vegetable Oil to fry
In a bowl mix all the dry ingredients together
Slowly start adding water to knead the dough. The dough should not me too hard as the dough for Pooris nor should it be too soft like we knead for Chapattis.
Let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes before you start shaping the Pakwan.