Food is indeed a reflection of a region’s unique geography, culture and lifestyle. The delicious cuisine of Rajasthan is no exception. Famous for both its non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes alike, Rajasthani food is as bold and vibrant as the Rajasthani people themselves.
Rajasthan is India’s largest state and is located in the northwestern part of the country. The cuisine of Rajasthan is as varied and distinct as its inhabitants. From the royal dishes of the kingly Rajputs to the strict vegetarian dishes of the Marwaris, Rajasthani cuisine offers an endless variety of dishes to please every palate.
Panchmela Dal is a wonderful example of Rajasthani food at its finest. This delicious and hearty vegetarian dish is comprised of 5 different dals cooked in ghee (clarified butter). Dals are low in fat and are also an excellent source of both protein and dietary fiber. In accordance with Marwari dietary traditions, this tasty dish contains neither onions nor garlic. You can always lighten the dish by using oil (such as canola) instead of ghee if you prefer.
The pressure cooker is absolutely indispensable in the Indian kitchen. It cooks dals, beans, lentils, vegetables, rice, chicken and lamb in mere minutes (as opposed to hours). The result is a fully cooked and tender final product that is cooked by a fast and healthy method. Pressure cookers can be a little intimidating at first, but I highly recommend using one especially for Indian meals. Pressure cookers will make your life easier and are a wonderful time saver. The newer modern pressure cookers are inexpensive and much safer to use. They are also easily available in most home and kitchen appliance stores. If you do not have a pressure cooker, this recipe can easily be made on the stovetop or also in a slow cooker.
½ cup toor dal (split pigeon pea)
½ cup yellow moong dal (split yellow gram)
½ cup chana dal (split Bengal gram)
¼ cup urad dal (split white lentils)
¼ cup masoor dal (orange lentils)
2-3 small green Thai chilies slit in half lengthwise, to taste
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1½-2” piece of cinnamon stick
1 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 fresh curry leaves
pinch asafoetida (hing)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp ground coriander powder
½ tsp ground cumin powder
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chilli powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1 tbsp tamarind paste (tamarind concentrate or tamarind powder is fine)
3 tbsp ghee or butter (you can use vegetable or canola oil)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Rinse all the dals and soak them together in enough water to cover, overnight. Rinse well before use. I highly recommend cooking the dals in a vessel within the pressure cooker. Remember to add water to both the dals and inside the pressure cooker itself. They usually cook in 12-15 minutes (this may vary among pressure cookers, but roughly about 2-3 whistles) after pressure has been reached. The dals should be soft and creamy but not mushy. If you do not have a pressure cooker, simply simmer the dals in a large soup pot (with enough water to cover) for 45 minutes or more until cooked. Let cool and set aside before use.
In a medium size sauce pot on medium high heat, add 2 tbsp of the ghee or oil. When hot add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon stick, green chilies, curry leaves and asafetida. Stir quickly and then add the ginger. Stir fry for just another minute or so. Now add the spices (salt, pepper, turmeric, ground coriander powder, ground cumin powder, garam masala and red chili powder). Let the spices fry for just a minute or two and then carefully add the dals along with any cooking liquid. You may need to add more water if necessary. The consistency should be thick and creamy. Next, mix well and add the amchoor powder and tamarind. Add the freshly grated nutmeg, stir to combine well and let cook for 8-10 minutes on low heat. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and drizzle the remaining ghee over the top just before serving with fresh rotis or fragrant Basmati rice.