You know how you just take some things for granted and don’t think about them very much?
Well, for me Dahi Baras are one of those things. They have been there at every ‘tea’ that I have been to for just about my entire life and my mother makes a variation (Dahi Phulki/Dahi Boondi) but I never thought about how to make them or what goes in and not because I don’t like them. I can certainly polish off an immense amount of dahi baray, especially the savoury and spicy kind. So much so that I am now grateful that I am pregnant and don’t have to justify how much I eat. I just never thought about how to make them because someone else always did.
This summer I decided to be brave and make them for a potluck lunch and playdate a friend was hosting. Is it brave or foolish to try something a little tricky for the first time for a crowd? Let’s just pretend it is brave since that is the kind of thing I do with some regularity.
The good news is that all is well that ends well and to ensure that it was not some kind of fluke I made them again today for a friend who was visiting from out of town. The very empty dish speaks for itself 🙂
Yogurt 2 pounds or about 1 ½ times a 750g yogurt carton
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp red chilli powder
1 to 1 ½ tsp cumin powder
Baras or Fried Lentil Dumplings
1 cup ma’ash/urad daal – the white kind covered with water and soaked overnight
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon salt
Chaat Masala Powder
Red Chilli Powder
Finely Chopped Cilantro
For the yogurt mix: Combine the yogurt, sugar and spices along with ½ cup of water and whisk. I suggest starting with half the amount of chilli powder and cumin powder unless like me you are a fan. Taste and check seasoning. Put it in the fridge while you work on the dumplings.
For the dumplings: As noted above you need to soak your lentils, I find overnight to be easiest but you can soak them for 6 hours to good effect. This recipe also makes a lot – 25 dumplings or more depending on their size – so if you want you can freeze the dumplings after they are fried (Do not soak them in water) and adjust the yogurt amounts accordingly.
Grind the lentils and the water they were soaking in to a thick paste, when you run a spoon through them they will leave pronounced tracks like those in the mediocre picture below – my camera/phone was just not cooperating today.
Dump the ground paste into a bowl and add the salt, red chilli powder, cumin powder and baking soda. Now whisk. The whisking will create volume in the batter which will allow the dumpling to retain its characteristic denseness without becoming heavy. Don’t wuss out on me now and really work some air into it. This will take only a few minutes and then you are good to go.
Now these babies need oil and lots of it, so take your frying pan of choice, add 2 inches of oil and put on medium-high heat for the oil to heat through. Meanwhile get another pan or bowl – at least 10 inches in diameter and fill it 2/3 of the way with water. Now get a tray or platter and line it with paper towels to help drain the grease from the dumplings.
Once the oil heats up – a small drop of the batter will land with an uplifting sizzle – then get out your spoon of choice. Gently place a dollop of the batter – I would say mine were a little over a tablespoon – into the hot oil. Suffice is to say it is best if the spoon is made of metal not plastic. When you add the dough to the oil then hold the spoon vertically so it lands in a more or less circular fashion. After a minute and a half the dumpling will turn a lovely golden color at which point you should turn them over and cook for another minute and a half. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
Then let the dumplings have a nice little soak in the bath you prepared for them, this will help soften the dumplings. While they are lazily floating away take out your dish of choice for serving the dumplings – I think you can fit all of them into a 13*9 sized dish, I used two smaller ones today. Pour a layer of the yogurt mix on the bottom, then remove the dumplings from the water one by one, gently squeezing them beneath your palms to drain the excess water and then lay them out in rows until your pan is filled.
Then top with enough of the yogurt to adequately cover the dumplings and refrigerate. Leave it for atleast an hour so the flavours soak through the dumplings.
When you are ready to serve you can do so with a combination of the following – chaat masala powder which is available in all south asian stores and in the South Asian or Indian section of large supermarket chains, red chilli powder if you want it very spicy, tamarind chutney, chopped cilantro.