Having a Gujarati thali is an experience in itself, one that I would highly recommend. The Gujarati cuisine is beautiful, if done right, and the dishes are a delicate balance between spicy, tangy, salty and sweet.
However, for the uninitiated, the Gujarati thali experience can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. My post today is all about demystifying this experience, to help you understand it a little better so you can thoroughly enjoy and appreciate it, the next time. I’m also going to share with you all the recipe for Gujarati Dal, a simple dish that is a crucial component of the thali.
Demystifying the Gujarati thali
The word ‘thali‘ literally translates into ‘platter’. While every region of India has unique thalis of its own – a Gujarati thali is a platter that comprises of various dishes from the state of Gujarat. Here’s a simple Gujarati thali I made recently. I have labelled the various components, for easier understanding.
A typical Gujarati thali would include:
– A traditional beverage like Masala Chaas (spiced buttermilk) or Keri Panna (a spiced raw mango drink)
– Flatbreads, such as Bajra No Rotlo (pearl millet flatbread), Phulka Rotli (a puffed roti made using wheat flour), Jowar No Rotlo (sorghum flatbread) or Pooris (deep-fried, puffed wheat flour bread)
– Bhaat aka rice, or a rice-based dish like Khichdi
– Kachumber or salad
– Gujarati Dal, beautiful-tasting mildly spiced, mildly sweet lentils
– One or more vegetable dishes aka shaak. In the above thali, I have included Bateta Nu Shaak (potato curry) and Valor Nu Shaak (hyacinth beans curry), both cooked Gujarati-style.
– Condiments like Athanu (pickle) or Chhundo (a sweet-sour relish made using raw mango)
– A dessert like Shrikhand (a sweet dish made using hung curd), Basundi (thickened and sweetened milk), Fada Lapsi (a sweet dish typically made using broken wheat), Gulab Jamun (khoya balls soaked in sugar syrup) or Kheer (a milk-based sweet dish).
It’s #TimeForThali at the Foodie Monday Blog Hop
This post is brought to you in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a wonderful group of food bloggers that I am part of.
The enthusiastic members of the Foodie Monday Blog Hop share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. The theme this week is #TimeForThali, wherein the members are showcasing thalis from different parts of India. For the theme, I chose to write about the Gujarati thali.
It was Sasmita of First Timer Cook who suggested this lovely theme. Her blog is a treasure trove of traditional Odia recipes, interesting bakes and fusion dishes with unique twists to them. You guys should check out her recipe for Kalara Chadchadi, Odia-style bitter gourd in mustard paste. Doesn’t that sound absolutely rustic and fascinating?
Gujarati Dal recipe
Now, without further ado, let me share the recipe for the Gujarati Dal I have included in the platter above. This is the everyday sort of dal, which is prepared on a regular basis in Gujarati households, made using minimal ingredients, no fancy stuff included.
Like I was saying earlier, Gujarati Dal is a simple but beautiful lentil dish, traditionally made using toor dal. The mildly spicy, lightly sour, and gently sweet taste of this dal is bewitching. It makes for a beautiful accompaniment to steamed rice and rotis alike.
Here’s how this Gujarati Dal is made.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1/2 cup toor dal
- 1-1/2 tablespoons peanuts
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 2 green chillies
- 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water and transfer the dal to a wide vessel.
2. Add in enough water to cover the dal fully. Take the peanuts in a small cup, add in about a tablespoon of water, and place it inside the vessel too. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Cook for 6-7 whistles on high flame or till the dal is fully cooked and soft. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
3. In the meantime, peel the ginger and chop it very finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the curry leaves, chopped coriander and lemon juice handy.
4. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, mash the cooked toor dal well. Keep it ready.
5. Now, we will start preparing the Gujarati Dal. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves, finely chopped ginger, slit green chillies and cooked peanuts. Saute for a few seconds.
6. Add the cooked toor dal to the pan, at this stage. Also add in about 3/4 cup water at this stage, or as needed to adjust consistency.
7. Add in the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well.
8. Add in the jaggery powder too. Mix well, and turn the flame down to medium.
9. Let the mixture cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till all the ingredients are well incorporated together. The mixture would have slightly thickened at this stage. Taste and adjust salt and jaggery at this stage. Switch off gas.
10. Mix in the lemon juice.
11. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Your Gujarati Dal is now ready. Serve it hot with steamed rice or rotis and sabzi, or as part of a full-fledged Gujarati thali meal.
Tips & Tricks
1. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Dal you require. Gujarati Dal is usually not very thick. It is on the runnier side, but not overly watery.
2. Adjust the amount of green chillies, lemon juice, salt and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.
3. Make sure the toor dal is well cooked before using it in the dish.
4. Other whole spices like cinnamon, cloves and cardamom can be added to the tempering too. I usually do that for special occasions only. I keep this everyday Gujarati Dal really simple.
5. Kokum (Garcinia Indica), tomatoes or tamarind extract can also be used to sour the Gujarati Dal. The tamarind isn’t a very traditional addition to the dal, but I have definitely seen it being used in the dish in Gujarati households. Kokum and tomatoes are more traditional souring agents in Gujarati Dal, as is lemon juice. I prefer using lemon juice.
6. The above Gujarati Dal recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It is a no-onion, no-garlic recipe as well. To make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!