DAL DHOKRI: Gujarat’s comfort food…dal-dhokri, pasta desi-style! Also make papdi-ni-dhokri or gavar-ni-dhokri for monsoon time veggie treats

Eating is Fun / Eating is Yuck! – A variety food column

By Tara Narayan

ALL of last week I’ve been deluged over media, print and electronic, smart phone and Facebook, with sales that promise discounts. Digital media advertising won’t let me live in peace! But where’s the money to buy, buy and buy? Some of my friends in their shops are sitting and twiddling their thumbs — no customers.

“It’s Ganesh Chaturthi day and I’ve been sitting here since morning but no one has come in to buy any of our dry fruit and novelty sweets from Mumbai, Delhi, etc, we also keep bebinca… but…” a friend shrugs. I console him and tell him he’s got stuff for tourists and Chovoth or Ganesh Chaturthi season there are no tourists around and Goans are all at their ancestral homes with their family cooking up special meals!

Friday morning I went for a ride on my “Blue Angel” and it was like Panaji had emptied out, although the few mithai shops (mainly Mithai Mandir and Mishra Pedawallah) were open and doing brisk business in sugary sweets (folk will eat refined sugar, salt and oil no matter how much they know it contributes to our diseases of modern-day malnutrition and sedentary sitting around lifestyles)! The hubby of course tells me to take my own counsel and then go and get some nevri, kaju katli and boondi laddoo for office staff and him. He’s a sugar junkie, can’t do anything about it.

I discovered that since I’d waited till the very last minute to do my shopping on Friday which was a public holiday, my favourite haunt, the Women’s Commission outlet, was cleaned out of its many desirable sweets and snacks and closed; and the seasonal festive small-scale shopping at the Caculo Mall was also not on. I was looking for besan ladoo — those made of desi ghee and not Sunflower ghee (an euphemism for hydrogenated vegetable oils). “Oh for those you have to order in advance and they’re far more expensive,” one of the seasonal retail housewives at the mall’s impromptu stalls told me. They won’t take the order if it’s less than a kilo’s worth of home-made mithai.

SO that’s that. I look at mithai elsewhere and refuse to buy, and not just because much of it this year in Goa is `550 plus, plus kg…luridly coloured mava and caju modak and peda, sweet enough to make the teeth chatter in protest. Of course as a friend of mine shrugs, a little sweet is okay. When I tell her poisonous sugar is everywhere like carcinogenic “keede makode from the woodwork of deadweight life”, she gives me a look and tells me she doesn’t want to associate with negative folk like me anymore for it affects her! Okay sweetie, goodbye. Funny, everyone is looking for positive folk these days even if they themselves are hardly positive!

I want to do my rounds of Lord Ganesh showpieces, invoking divine blessings and eating more miserable sweets or partaking of a sumptuous lunch in a rich man’s ancestral home! Then again I tell myself it’s a festival which has outlived its utility value and does more damage than good (if you see the larger picture). We’re a nation of idol-worshippers and take Mother Earth for granted! Plus, we let god men and god women of various denominations reduce us to religious slavery and sexually exploit women and children. If you’re asking me it’s more like Ravan-raj all around us, promising Ram rajya tomorrow, but never today! Today let the criminals live out their crooked karma.

Positivity and negativity is a state of mind and one must be happy at all costs, or one should be neither happy nor unhappy and like the Buddha spread kindness and compassion in all the ways I can in memory of all the kindness and compassion that has come my way… ahaaaa, now I’m being positive, says the friend who snapped at me earlier! But distributing some boxes of caju katli and golden jalebi to staff who are present and those who’ve made the effort to come to work doesn’t really cheer me up! Kindness and compassion must come from no reason at all or for reasons which are not so shallow… and I’m no Buddha although I count myself as one of his many devotees and sometimes chant in his memory.

Why not admire Lord Krishna instead of the Buddha, the friend asked. Why not both, I asked back. The first was a practical philosopher king of the Mahabharat era while the second left everything for his wife to handle while he became a wise man perennially in search of the truth which bedevils us all… what is the truth when we’re trapped in doublethink and doublespeak day in and day out?

That’s enough food for the mind! I want to ask here why something like ginger has become so expensive, `120 kg, and rotten at the centre to boot? Ginger is something I like to keep stocked at home for I grate it in tea, omelette and soup. This ginger I saw with a Panaji market vendor looked so good and he said, “See, it’s dry ginger, very good…” I bought a quarter kg for `30 and at home, when I cut of a bit to use, I found it rotten and smelly at the core! Had to chuck it. Where has all the good ginger gone? The kind with thin skin which scrapes off easily and yields creamy ginger juice….These days I keep throwing away hard-earned money on rotten ginger amongst a whole lot of other rotten stuff. And everybody wants me to be positive!

Ginger is a natural painkiller, and my favourite monsoon malady remedy is a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger juice mixed with a tablespoon of wild/Manuka honey for cough relief and better sleep. Ginger and lemon juice is delicious. Monsoon season we should invest in eating a few herbs like immortal tulsi, ajwain-ki-patti, lemon grass in soup, scrape an aloe vera leaflet and add it to your salad or coleslaw. There’s fresh Thai galangal ginger at the Magsons mall outlet in Panaji.

One day thinking it’s Ganesh Chaturthi, make something different, I made the Gujarati “dal-dhokri.” Dal-dhokri is an original savoury Guju pasta dish, although in the old days my mother used to use up leftover dal from lunch to make it…hence “dal-dhokri” – the “dhokri” can be made with any stir-fried veggie. On a rainy day I dream of either papdi or gavar-ni-dhokri, it’s Guju  comfort food of the very best kind!

Papdi are these fresh crescent-shaped kidney beans or wild beans in the market, we call them “papdi” or “valor papdi.” The fat small lightly green field beans are “Surti papdi” and one may just use the fat beans within, discard the thick pods (thin ones may go in the cooking).  Papdi is rare to see in the monsoon market here in Panaji so if you can’t find them, next best is gavar or cluster beans (tidki midki in Goa) for that too makes for a great dhokri…ok, here’s my recipe:

TAKE half kg field kidney beans (or cluster beans), rinse, clean and cut into inch pieces. For the tempering or phodki you need a tablespoon of oil, a tsp of ajwain (thymol seeds), a tbs of diced/sliced garlic, a sprig or two of fresh green curry leaves, generous pinch hing. Also a tbs each of raisins/fresh groundnuts/sesame seeds.

MAKE the dough by binding two cups of besan or gram flour using water, season to taste with salt, turmeric powder, jeera powder, half tsp red chilli powder is optional. The dough should be tight enough to roll out into thickish roti to be cut into diamond shaped pieces,  kept aside…..

HEAT a kadai to do the phodni: Add oil, and quickly in order of priority… ajwain (or cumin seeds, ajwain burns quickly so be careful), then garlic, curry leaves, hing. Add in papdi bits and stir-fry adding in two cups of hot water. When it comes to a gentle rolling boil, add in salt to taste, and slip in the besan roti diamond slices and let cook, stirring couple of times; add in groundnuts, golden raisins. You will get an aromatic thinnish/thickish (as you wish) savoury pasta — garnish with freshly chopped green coriander leaves, sesame seeds, and serve with lemon halves to squeeze atop at time of feasting. Enjoy!

Postscript: In Gujarati village homes a dal-dhokri is standard evening meal fare and it is laced with some pure ghani-squeezed sesame seed oil. I also like to garnish with chopped fine onion, stir in for a crunchy dal or papdi or gavar phalli dhokri.

HEY, this monsoon discover the charms of making Gujarati dhokri. Your basic stock could be thin dal or plain water (temper it as detailed above). As a teenager whenever mother dear instructed me into making left over dal-dhokri she’d add, “Dhoka jevi nai banavti!” Meaning don’t make your besan roti too thick or it won’t cook quick and taste nice. “Dhoka jevi” is such a memorable phase it sticks in the mind and may be applied to many things… “dhoka”refers to the thick wooden baton used for beating clothes while hand-washing them! So one’s manners no matter what one cooked in the kitchen should never be like a “dhoka!”

In the feminine it is “dhoka jevi” and in the masculine it is “dhoka jevo!” So when someone said “Dhoka jevi che!” it was a supreme insult when it came to daughters cooking in the kitchen. Funny, nowadays whenever I slip into Gujarati lingo under stress, I invariably mutter “dhoka jevi” or “dhoka jevo” and amuse myself endlessly with my own private thoughts! All this is nothing to do with making a delicious dal-dhokri which is to Gujarat what pav-bhaji is to Maharashtra!

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