Craving GT Road dhaaba deliciousness? Try this channa daal

Published: September 26, 2013
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Give this delicious recipe a try and let me know how your guests reacted to it in the comments below. Enjoy! PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

Whoever has travelled on the Grand Trunk (GT) road in Pakistan knows what a driver’s hotel or a manji hotel is. Four ideas are the usual elements which make up such a hotel; truck drivers, plenty of manjis (Punjabi for beds), karak doodh patti (strong milk-tea) and affordably epic desi food.

These informal restaurants are where all the long haul trucks make in-between stops to eat, drink and rest before heading to another stretch of their tiring journeys.

The GT road is South Asia’s oldest and longest road, originally built to link eastern and western regions of the subcontinent. The road was rebuilt by Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century. This road is still an integral part of road networks in Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Before the Islamabad to Lahore motorway was built in 1997, GT road was the only way to reach Rawalpindi from other parts of Punjab. My grandparents lived in Rawalpindi and regardless of where we were posted in Pakistan due to the nature of my father’s job, summer holidays were always spent with my grandparents. This meant travelling on GT Road was a must.

At Lala Musa, half way between Lahore and Rawalpindi on GT Road, there was (and still is) a truck restaurant named the Mianjee hotel. The place is known for its channa daal (chickpea lentil) and parathay. Even after so many years, I have not forgotten the taste of that exquisite daal.

It has taken me many attempts in the kitchen, and a lot of effort, to come up with a taste of a channa daal which is close enough to Mianjee’s daal.

So here it is.

Ingredients

Channa daal (chickpeas lentil) – 1 cup (washed and soaked in water overnight)

Onions – 2 finely chopped

Tomatoes – 3 medium sized (Pureed with 2 green chillies)

Ginger/Garlic paste – 1 tbsp

Cumin (zeera) – 1 tsp (Partially crushed in pastel mortar)

Cinnamon – 2-3 sticks

Black cardamom – 2

Dried red chilies – 2 (whole)

Curry leaves – 6-8 fresh or 4-5 dried

Red chili powder – ½ tsp

Turmeric – ¼ tsp

Salt – ¾ tsp (Adjust more as per taste)

Dried Kasuri methi – ½ tsp

Oil – 3 tbsp

Water – 500 ml

For tarka – Butter, onions, cumin, mustard seeds, green chillies, curry leaves and coriander.

Tomato pureed with 2 green chillies. PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

Instructions

Soak one cup of chickpea lentil in water over night. It will swell up and become more than two and a half cups. Drain the water before cooking. Heat oil in a pan, add onions and let them brown.

PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

Now add the ginger garlic paste, cumin, dried whole chillies, cinnamon and cardamoms. Fry till the ginger garlic paste becomes golden. Now add the tomato puree and cook for three to four minutes. Then add salt, chilli powder and turmeric, and cook for another two minutes. Add chickpea lentil and mix.

PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

After adding the lentil and mixing, add 500 millilitre (ml) of water and half of curry leaves and let the lentils boil on high heat. As soon as it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan for 30 to 35 minutes.

PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

Mix from time to time and check the amount of water as well as the tenderness of the lentil. This lentil takes a long time to cook and soaking it overnight considerably reduces the cooking time. If the lentil still has a bite after 30 minutes of cooking, then add 200 ml of water. Let it simmer on low flame till it is completely cooked and the lentil is soft.

PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

Leave some liquid as the gravy. The lentil will soak it up later as it cools down. Now sprinkle the dried Kasuri methi and mix the daal.

Dish the daal/lentil in to a bowl. Do a tarka on the daal with the ingredients mentioned earlier. Butter is the magic ingredient here.

PHOTO: Ambreen Malik

And voilà! Enjoy this devilishly delicious dish because I promise you, it will definitely be the best tasting channa daal you have had in a very long time!

This post originally appeared here.

Ambreen Malik

Ambreen Malik

The author is a Microfinance Banker, food blogger, LSE Alum and a dragon in training. She tweets as @ambreen_malik (twitter.com/ambreen_malik)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.