Biulir dal can be polarising. You either like its slimy texture, or you don't. Slime is a food texture that Bengali cuisine prizes. Young children are gently cajoled into eating slimy delicacies such as lady's fingers (dhyarosh), jute leaves (paat), malabar spinach (pui), certain types of taro (kochu), taro stolons (kochur loti) and so on. The indoctrination usually starts with the fried forms of these foods. In no time they graduate to other methods of cooking, that produce more slimy results. It is a slippery slope.
This recipe is how biulir dal is cooked in our Bangal (East Bengali immigrant) family. The dal is first dry roasted before being boiled. In other households, the dal may be boiled directly producing a more slimy consistency. The most important flavours here are of fennel seeds (mouri) and fresh ginger. This dal is commonly served with alu posto (potatoes cooked in a poppy seed paste) in West Bengali (ghoti) households.
- 150 g kalaier dal (urad in Hindi)
- 12 g salt
- 600 g water
- 15 g vegetable oil
- 3 pcs dried red chillies
- 2 pcs bay leaves
- 3 pcs green chillies
- ½ tsp fennel seeds (mouri)
- 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
- 20 g ginger paste
- 6 g fennel ground to a fine paste
- 28 g sugar
- 15 g ghee
- Dry-roast the dal over medium heat, until the colour changes to a light brown (about 8 minutes). Immediately remove from the heat to prevent it from cooking further, and wash with cold water.
- Transfer the dal to a pressure cooker along with 12 g salt and 600 ml water. The lentils should be cooked, but should not disintegrate completely. Use a dal ghutni or balloon whisk to mash some of the dal. Do this gently. We don't want a uniform slurry.
- Grind 6 g fennel seeds to a fine paste.
- In a hot kadai heat vegetable oil. Temper with dried red chillies, bay leaves, ½ tsp of fennel seeds (mouri), green chillies, and a pinch of hing (asafoetida).
- Add half of the ginger paste and half of the fennel seed paste along with a splash of hot water, and braise the spices on medium heat for about 4 minutes.
- Add sugar, and then add the boiled dal.
- Bubble for 5 minutes, and add the rest of the ginger paste and the fennel seed paste. Cook another 2 minutes.
- Finish with ghee.