Hello Ramazan, hello Dahi Bhallay!
Sweltering summers and food-less Ramazans are a rather challenging, patience-testing combination. But not once does it falter the resolve of a believer when it comes to fasting. For people who fast, away from home and, in non-Muslim countries, things are even tougher.
The work hours don’t change, meaning even when your energy levels are dwindling and your eyes are droopy due to sleep deprivation, you still need to keep on marching. This also means that the expatriate families hardly have time to prepare the elaborate iftar, which we are accustomed to in Pakistan or any other Muslim country.
I personally enjoy a fuss free iftar; a simple meal accompanied by a hydrating drink. But those who can’t settle for a fuss free iftar, prepping ahead is a viable option for them. I am sharing the recipe for ‘Dahi Bhallay’ (as we Punjabis call it). The assembly takes no time at all so I prepare everything in advance and freeze it. I made this for Ammi and my mother-in-law on my last trip to Pakistan, in April this year, and both of them loved it.
Phase 1: Make sweet tamarind chutney
Wet tamarind – 300 grams
Water – 3 cups
Sugar – ¾ cup
Salt – ½ tsp
- Soak the tamarind overnight in three cups of water.
- The next morning, mash the tamarind and separate the pulp and seeds. Strain the liquid.
- Boil the tamarind liquid with salt and sugar till it reduces to about a cup. Cool and refrigerate.
Phase 2: Make the spice mix
Whole cumin – 1 tbsp
Whole coriander seeds – 1 tsp
Dried chillies – 4 to 5
Whole black peppercorns – ½ tsp
Dry roast all the spices in a frying pan. Once cooled, grind to make a powder. Store the spice mix in a sealed bag or container in the freezer for later use.
Phase 3: Make the bhallay -lentil cakes
Mash lentil – 1 ½ cup (soaked overnight)
Baking powder – 2 tsps
Salt – 1 ½ tsps (adjust to taste)
Freshly grounded black peppercorn – 1 tsp
Oil – Preferably sunflower oil (to fry the bhallays)
- Using a liquidiser, make a thick paste of the lentil with all the ingredients. I find it easier to divide the lentil into two or three portions and then grind; this yields a finer paste. Mix all the batches thoroughly.
- Heat the wok with one to two cups of sunflower oil. Once the oil is boiling hot, add heaped tablespoons of batter each into the wok in quick succession. Do not crowd the wok, as this will result in the oil cooling down faster and in effect, deflating the bhallas. Fry to a gentle golden colour. Once crisp, take them out on a kitchen paper. Repeat the process till all bhallas are fried.
- Soak the bhallas in boiling hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain the water and leave to cool. Then press each bhalla between the palms of your hands to squeeze the water out. Be careful not to break them. Use about a dozen bhallas for now and put the rest aside. The remaining bhallas can be frozen in a sealed container for later use.
Phase 4: Make the yogurt sauce
Yogurt- 2 cups
Sugar – 3 to 4 tbsps
Salt – to taste
Water- ½ cup
Homemade Dahi Bhalla spice mix – 1 tsp (or adjust to taste)
Chaat masala – 1 tsp (or adjust to taste)
Mix all the ingredients to make a thin yogurt mixture – set aside.
Phase 5: Assembling the Dahi Bhallay
You can assemble them in individual serving dishes or in a large casserole style dish. Cover the base of the dish with the spiced sweet yogurt then add a few dollops of sweet tamarind sauce. Place the (water soaked and squeezed) lentil cakes on top of it. Top the lentil cakes with the remaining of the spiced sweet yogurt. Pour a few more swirls of sweet tamarind sauce. Add a dusting of chaat masala and fresh mint or coriander. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Dahi Bhallas are one of the most favourite Ramazan dishes – savoury and sweet, this dish can satisfy all your cravings at the same time.
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