CELEBRATORY meals usually feature an array of meaty delights to keep appetites satiated but too many meat dishes in one sitting can be quite overwhelming.
So some hosts may either prepare vegetarian kurma or vegetarian dalcha to offer balance on the menu.
In my home, we either lean toward nasi minyak, rendang, mutton dalcha, fried chicken, mutton with garlic and pepper and vegetables, or line up a menu of mutton briyani, chicken kurma and fried chicken to go with raita, achar buah and mixed vegetables when celebrating a happy occasion.
Alternatively, we may opt for a Western menu – roast meat and sides.
Dalcha, which is usually cooked with mutton bones, occupies the top spot in the hierachy of dhal dishes in my book.
With the availability of mock mutton and chicken these days, it is not an issue to whip up an appetising vegetarian version, our featured recipe today, as long as all the ingredients are readied beforehand.
This way, if there are vegetarians among your guests, there is something for them too.
150g Malawi dhal + 2 cup water
75g chana dhal + 1 cup water
2 tsp salt
30g ginger (grated)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 large cinnamon stick (optional)
300g mock mutton
15g tamarind + 1/2 cup water (soak)
3 pandan leaves
1/4 cup santan
100g long beans
2 pandan leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried chillies
2 green chillies
1 stalk curry leaves
1 tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp kurma powder
1/2 cup water
5 cardamom pods bruised
2 tsp fennel
1 tsp cumin
3 red onions diced
3 tbsp cooking oil (or more)
180g ghee (or more)
Wash and soak Malawi dhal in two cups of water and chana dhal (split chickpeas) in one cup of water, separately, for three hours.
In a separate bowl, soak the tamarind for five minutes and extract the juice. Set it aside.
Transfer chana dhal (with soaking water) into a deep pot, and add garlic cloves, grated ginger, five cardamom pods, cinnamon, salt, turmeric and three pandan leaves.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Cook it for about half an hour because it takes a while for this lentil variety to cook, before adding the Malawi dhal.
While waiting for the chana dhal to soften, attend to the vegetables.
Cut the carrot, drumsticks and long beans to about 4cm batons. Slice the brinjals and tomatoes into wedges.
Once the 30 minutes are up, add the Malawi dhal with soaking water to the pot.
After 10 minutes, remove pandan leaves.
Scoop up one cup of the mixed boiled lentils and set aside. This is to prevent the lentils from breaking down to a mush hence saving some will ensure some seeds are visible in the end product.
Add 1/2 cup of hot water to the pot.
First add the brinjals, then after five minutes, let the carrots and drumsticks join the party. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Return the 1 cup of dhal to the pot.
If the dhal thickens, add 1/2 cup hot water to lighten the lentil soup.
The mock mutton should go in at this point. Finally add the long beans.
Tamarind juice enters the scene here but add enough to your liking to prevent the dhal from becoming too sour.
Include coconut milk for a touch of creaminess. You may omit this ingredient.
Next is the tempering process. Chop the onions and slice green chillies. Set these aside.
In a separate pot, heat ghee and cooking oil.
Add dried chillies, mustard seeds, curry leaves and pandan leaves and let the ingredients splutter and pop before throwing in green chillies and five cardamom pods.
Stir these ingredients for about two minutes. Remove the pandan leaves before adding in the onions and cook until translucent.
Next, create a slurry with chilli powder, curry powder, kurma powder with ½ cup of water and add this into the pot sizzling with aromatic herbs and spices.
Then add the fennel and cumin seeds (or powder) and cook the paste until oil separates forming a layer on the surface.
If your paste is too dry, heat ghee or oil separately in a pot and add to the curry paste.
Turn off the heat once the reddish orange paste is ready and add to the dhal.
Finally introduce the tomatoes to the pot. Season with salt according to taste.
Serve in a deep bowl and garnish with coriander leaves. Best eaten hot with rice, thosai or roti.