I know the dish in the picture above looks more like ‘kadhi’ (curd-cased gravy) than ‘dal’ (lentil gravy). You’ll find out why as you reach the end!
I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post that I happen to posses a copy of the ITC Group’s magazine named Welcome Zest. It has loads of articles on the culinary tradition of India. One of the articles talks about the origins of the ‘dum’ style of cooking and how it was this tradition that inspired the food at its chain restaurant Dum Pukht at many of its Sheraton Hotels.
The term ‘dum pukht’ comes from the Persian words dum, which means to breathe and pukht, which means to cook. It is interesting, the story about how the dum style evolved. Like they say, necessity is the mother of all invention. In the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, Asaf ud Daula, the nawab of Lucknow, started a major employment scheme by ordering the establishment of a city. All the hectic construction work demanded that there be food ready 24×7 for all the workers. This led to a big kitchen being setup that cooked rice, meat and vegetables in huge quantities.
A new method of cooking evolved, wherein the deghs (cooking vessels) were covered with dough and topped with hot coals. This ensured that food cooked evenly from both top and the bottom (over fire), with the food getting cooked in its own juices. This retained the freshness of the food for a longer duration too. The article goes on to say how Asaf ud Daula, on a visit to the construction site, was so enchanted with the smell of all the food cooking that he ordered the royal kitchen to adopt the dum pukht style of cooking!
One of the signature dal dishes from the Sheraton Group’s is the Dal Dum Pukht, which is “arhar lentil (split pigeon peas) cooked with yellow chillies, yogurt and exotically tempered with caramelised garlic,” says the magazine. I’d only heard of dum biryanis and aloo dums before. This was the first time I’d read about dal cooked in dum and I thought I must try it out.
Since simple arhar dal tadka (fried seasoning) is a standard fare at home, I thought it might be good to try cooking it in dum to see if there is any difference in taste. Since I’ve never cooked dum style before, I cooked a tiny quantity too see how it went. Instead of cooking dum the whole way, I cooked arhar dal al dente (hehe!) in a pressure cooker and finished it in dum for 20 minutes.
I couldn’t make out much difference in texture, except that it was quite creamy and rich thanks to the curd. In fact, I thought the dal tasted a little ‘raw’ even though the dal was soft and well cooked. Later in the day, I added another ¼ cup of cooked arhar (split pigeon peas) to the dal and it tasted reasonably fine.
I can think of three reasons why the dal tasted a little odd the first time round. The main reason could be because I did the dum part first and topped with tadka once done. I should have done the tadka in a pan, added the dal and then cooked it in dum. Then, I added about 2 spoonfuls of thick yogurt to the meagre ¼ cup dal that I cooked. I should have added just one spoon. The garlic was an issue too – I added one big clove of garlic. I should have used a smaller clove. The garlic flavour was overpowering for a garlic-queasy person like me.
Since this wasn’t a successful attempt, I’m not sharing the recipe. If any of you have prepared dal in dum before, do let me know how you did it.
But I am intrigued enough by dum cooking and all the history behind it that I’m hoping to cook the dal fully in dum next time round. Wish me luck and do share your ‘dum’ stories!
This was meant to be my third entry for Valli’s Blogging Marathon this month. Sadly, I wasn’t able to manage a better one. Hop over here for lots of other themed recipes.