Before sharing today’s recipe- Sabut Masoor ki dal (brown lentil in Indian style), I will share a story with you which my mother shared with me when I was a kid.
If you are following my blog for some time now then you must be aware that I belong to a beautiful Himalayan state of India-Uttarakhand.
In Uttarakhand, there was a community of female monks called Mai (Mai means mother in Hindi). I used ‘was’ in my last sentence as I am not sure if that community still exists.
Unfortunately, in last 14 years, I visited Uttarakhand only once and that too for a very short period to attend a cousin’s wedding and meet my grandmother so not updated with the existence of Mai there and couldn’t find anything about them on Google.
Even in my childhood days, I never saw any young Mai. Most of them were of my grandmother’s age or even older. This means that the practice of becoming a Mai had started shrinking long back which is a good thing considering that most of the Mais were widows from poor family or women with a sad past and no other place to go.
Now the women are more independent and educated so they are in a better position to start fresh even after falling in life.
But the women were more vulnerable in the older years.
So many years back (I am not sure when but maybe 6-7 generations back) such abandoned, lonely women formed a group and started living together in different Ashrams which they formed near the Shivalayas(temples of Lord Shiva).
Living with other women who were either rejected by the society or those who rejected the society, soothed the pain of their struggles to a certain extent.
My mother tells us that when she was a kid there were many young Mais. She specifically remembers one Mai who was very pretty and even as a child my mother used to feel awful seeing that beautiful young lady living a sad and lonely life.
On becoming a Mai these women were given a new name mostly of holy places or Hindu Goddesses. They used to shave their heads and wore only plain peach colored sarees without any makeup and accessories.
They used to travel (mostly walk) to different villages where the villagers used to give them some uncooked rice and lentil. My mother remembers that while giving lentils to Mais, people used to add small packets of basic spices and salt required to temper that lentil and also some money.
It was not considered as begging but more as a bhiksha (some token given out of respect or care) and these Mais survived on those basic tokens from villagers.
The good thing is that in Uttarakhand, people respected these women and no one ever exploited them.
Many times while traveling from one village to another, they used to halt at different villages during night and people used to allow them inside their house.
They were clean, hygienic and peaceful women who used to cook their own food outside the house by burning woods and always used their own basic utensils. They also preferred sleeping on the floor and using their own sheets.
During such night halts they sometimes used to share their sad and even harrowing past lives with the hosts.
Why I shared this long story of Mai is because today’s recipe – Sabut Masoor ki dal became one of my favorite dal recipes when my mother shared a story of two Mais with me when I was a kid.
Once during the initial months of getting married to my father, my mother and one of my aunts were alone at home when two Mais came to their house. So my mother and aunt gave them some uncooked rice, brown lentil and a few basic ingredients like salt, turmeric, mustard oil, limes etc.
The Mais quickly collected some woods, lit a fire outside the house and cooked rice and sabut masoor ki dal on it. After eating the food with great satisfaction they lied down on the floor and slept for a few hours before leaving.
My mother told us that the aroma of their simple food was so good that after they left, my mother and aunt cooked the same simple food for dinner and relished it with the whole family.
Since the day I heard this story, I love Sabut masoor ki dal and whenever I make it I remember that little story.
It’s a very simple recipe and needs only a few ingredients. A lot of people add onions and tomatoes to it but at our home this dal is tempered only with cumin seeds, garlic and green chilies.
One thing which is very important is that it’s eaten sour. Traditionally in Uttarakhand a molasses like thick black but extremely sour syrup made with Citron called chookh is added to make this lentil sour.
Unfortunately, if you are not in Uttarakhand it’s almost impossible to find it as I have never seen anyone selling that amazing ingredient outside Uttarakhand so instead of chookh add lots of lime juice to your lentil.
You can enjoy this lentil with rice as well as roti. It’s a very good source of protein.
Do you also love a dish because of some story associated with it. If yes, please share with me, I would love to hear it.
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How to make Brown Lentil (Indian style)
Sabut Masoor ki dal - Brown lentil in Indian style
- 1 cup brown lentil sabut masoor
- 3.5 cups water
- 5-6 roughly chopped garlic cloves
- 2-3 chopped green chilies
- 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp mustard oil/ any cooking oil of your choice
- 2-3 tbsp lime/ lemon juice
- Salt as per taste
- Add brown lentil, water, turmeric powder, salt and coriander powder to a pressure cooker and cook till 3 whistles on medium flame. You can also use an instant pot or a normal pot to cook. The normal pot will take a longer time to cook.
- In a tadka pan or any normal small pan, heat oil and add chopped garlic cloves. Most of the people add cumin seeds first but since I want to fry garlic till it turns golden brown so adding it first otherwise, cumin seeds will get burnt by the time garlic turns brown.
- Once the garlic turns light brown add in the cumin seeds and fry till garlic becomes golden brown.
- Add in chopped green chilies and sauté for 2-3 seconds and then pour this tempered oil over the cooked dal.
- Add coriander leaves and lime juice, mix everything well. Serve hot with plain rice/ jeera rice or roti.
- Enjoy your simple, light and delicious Indian home cooked food!