Sunday, January 25, 2009

Daal : My comfort food


I don't remember anymore how I came upon it but we were sitting at the table having dinner and talking when we started talking about the taste and flavours in food and i suddenly remembere that there was this fifth "taste" which was discovered much later than the others like sweet, salty, sour and bitter. I was trying to think hard, but the only letter of the word that I remembered was 'U'. The word is comleted as Umami. I don't know exactly if we weren't tought about it in school or we were but I couldn't understand it so didn't remember. :D This is the information I collected:
Taste is one of the five senses of our body and from the biological point of view a chemoreception where a chemical stimulus is recognised by a sensory recepetor in our body - in this case a receptor found in our taste buds or "gustatory calyculi" that transmits the sensation of taste to our brain. Taste is a sensation which takes place on our tongue whereas flavour invloves the sensation of smell as well.
There are five basic tastes (taste sensations) :
Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter and the comparitively newest (1907) - Umami. There are two more taste bud recepetors which have been identified which sense fatty acids (in fats and oils) and calcium respectively. NOTE: Hot or Spicy is not a taste in the same sense, since hotness is sensed in a different way (through somatosensory fibers sensing pain and temperature on the tongue).

Umami flavour is also described as savoury sometimes. It is very often found in fermented foods, and often produced through compounds like glutamate (one of the 24 amino acid) which bind to the taste bud receptors which recognise this stimulus. It comes much more often in Asian food or also Eurpoean than in Indian.I think. Though I could be wrong, as we also have many different fermented foods in all the different Indian cultures. So, I went to check about it in Wiki and found it, of course. When I heard this for the first time I was quit facinated and knew why all these additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG or Ajinomoto) and the likes were being added in all kinds of savoury products, you know now for sure, - to stimulate our taste buds! But, I don't like this overdose of umami at all. I rather go for flavours present naturally in food where there is a balance between the different flavours.

Here is some information on the discovery of the taste Umami and monosodium glutamate:
glutamate.org
Wikipedia

Now I will come to my comfort food: daal. Earlier it was always kitchdi, but since I so rarely have mung daal at home now, with whichI make kichdi, I have found that a plate of rice with hot daal gives me the feeling of "home" and comfort and there are days where I do miss it. I wonder how much of umami is present in daal (lentils).

Urd ki daal

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

Ingredients:


1 cup skinned black gram, soaked for a couple of hours
same quantity of water for cooking in a pressure cooker
salt, to taste
3/4 tsp turmeric
Tadka (Chaunk):
1 heaped tbsp ghee or 2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin
1 pinch asafoetida, crushed or powdered
1 small red onion (or yellow), thinky sliced
1-2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced - I left it out this time
1/2 inch ginger, thinly sliced or grated
1/4 tsp chili powder
1-2 tsp coriander seeds, ground

2nd Tadka / Mirchi ka Chaunk (optional)* - or call it chilli oil
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1/4 tsp cumin (optional)
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, ground (optional)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder

Method:
  • soak daal in water and change water a couple of times in between
  • Cook daal in the pressure cooker with turmeric and salt as per instructions till the lentils are tender
  • in the meantime cut onion, tomatoes and other spices
  • once daal is done, prepare tadka :
    • heat oil or ghee in a frypan and add cumin and let it splutter
    • add asafoetida and stir once
    • add the onion garlic and ginger, stir
    • add the remaining dry spices
    • keep stirring and fry till onion is golden brown
    • add the ready tadka to the daal
  • preprae second tadka in the same way and serve in a separate bowl along with the daal,
  • daal is usually eaten with steamed rice or rotis or both and sukhi subzi(s) (dry stirfried vegetables) of choice
*The second tadka serves the purpose of increasing het in your food by adding the chilli oil to the food, usually daal

Another one...


Arhar ki Daal (Toor lentils)

Recipe by PG of My Kitchen Stories

Special equipment: pressure cooker (if not available, then soak for longer and cook in a covered pan for 1 hour or more)

serves 4

Ingredients:

150 - 200 g arhar / toor daal (lentil), washed and soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
1 -1/2 cups water for cooking
salt to taste (first add 1/2 tsp and adjust accordingly later)
1/2 tsp turmeric

Tadka / Chaunk
1 tbsp ghee or any cooking oil (if using onion 2 tbsp may be required)
1 tsp (heaped) cumin
1/8 tsp asafoetida, finely ground (for beginners - use 1 pinch)
1 pinch (generous) ground fenugreek seeds
6-8 curry leaves (optional)
2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1/8 tsp red chilli powder -or to taste (optional) - you can also use fresh green chillies, if available

1 garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 medium tomato, chopped into large cubes or small, as per liking

2nd Tadka / Mirchi ka Chaunk (optional)* - or call it chilli oil
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1/4 tsp cumin (optional)
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, ground (optional)
1/4 tsp red chilli powder

Method:
  • soak daal in water and change water a couple of times in between
  • Cook daal in the pressure cooker with turmeric and salt as per instructions till the lentils are tender
  • in the meantime cut onion, tomatoes and other spices
  • once daal is done, prepare tadka :
    • heat oil or ghee in a frypan and add cumin and let it splutter
    • add asafoetida and curry leaves, stir once
    • add the onion and garlic, stir
    • add the remaining dry spices
    • fry till onion is golden yellow
    • add tomatoes nd fry till tender
    • add the ready tadka to the daal
  • preprae second tadka in the same way and serve in a separate bowl along with the daal,
  • daal is usually eaten with steamed rice or rotis or both and sukhi subzi(s) (dry stirfried vegetables) of choice
*The second tadka serves the purpose of increasing heat in your food by adding the chilli oil to the food, usually daal

Daal is a staple in Indian food in almost all the regions of India as we majorly eat vegetarian diet. In many regions fish and in some other either or meat in addition is also eaten, but still it is more a delicacy made on some special occasions or on special days than being a regular at the table. I have to say here that I'm writing this based on my impression of all the Indian cultures from the different regions of India. I always consider the variety in culture and so also foods of India at par, if not more, with the continent Europe. So, it is almost impossible for me to know everything. But, having lived in the capital city of India and some other regions of India, and as my father worked for the cenral govermnent we lived together in a "colony" with friends from many different regions of India whose parents were also central goverment "servants". My mother exchanged foods with neighbours whose origins were different than ours and so had different food than ours. It was always such a delight to get a bowl of hot daals or a curry from the neighbour. Yes, those were the days...

Now I actually wanted to write somethig else, but how my thoughts drift :D.
Daal is prepared differently in different regions of India. What make the daal different is the tadka or "chaunk", as we call it, and there are man others word for it, but my knowledge if it is very bad. And these recipes are the tadkas I saw my mom make, partly adapted from her neighbours, so to say.

So, off it goes to Sunshinemom's FIC : Yellow at Tongueticklers!

And I would like to send this entry to this month's MLLA started by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook being hosted by Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons.

18 comments:

sunshinemom said...

Thanks for the information! I wasn't aware of the latest taste discovered but I am so glad you include these facts. I do not purchase packaged farsan because of MSG added liberally! The dals look great but today it was the information that was the topper! I will check up more about it as soon as I leave this place!! Thanks for sending this to FIC:)

Priya said...

Never tried dal with urad dal, really very delicious dal, both dals looks gorgeous, thanks to ur lovely n encouraging comments on my blog PG..

Curry Leaf said...

Never ever tried urad in my dal curry.Looks definitely umami the nd tadka.Thanks for info on umami.Its definitely good to have a savoury item ,but MSG and others are avoidable.natural is best and healthy.

Priya said...

PG, u can use wheat flour instead of rava, else i think they will get stick to the tawa..

Soma said...

Very good info PG. Never heard of that new taste!!

What lovely dals, & very new kind of preps. Yeah dal is an all time comfort food. I wonder what i would have done if there were no dals!

Curry Leaf said...

PG,one doubt,You had talked about maillard reaction when tofu is used as an egg replacer in your applesauce cake post.Do you know what scientifically happens when a diary substance like butter is mixed with non diary substance like tofu made into a paste with soymilk.I found that when these two are mixed,the batter,looks curdled,but on continuous stirring it attains the normal texture or finally the final product turns out well.Can you give me any food science links or any other info that u have.Also you use rice flour in muffins -can I use any rice flour -there are different types.
Hope I am not bothering you,if so,ignore this.Thanks

PG said...

Sunshinemom, I'm happy to know about it that you liked the information.

Priya, thanks a lot for your quick answer.

Soma, so true :)

Curry leaf, no not at all. As for rice flour I have used brown rice flour until recently as that was the only type i could find. usually I see the regular fine ground rice flour. I'll get back to you soon about the other thing. i have a hunch, but I'm not sure.

PG said...

oops! I meant usually in recipes I see the regular fine ground rice flour being used.

Cynthia said...

For me too, dal is comfort food. It is something that I eat often. Just have dhal rice and some pickle and I am totally satisfied.

Curry Leaf said...

Thanks for the reply dear.I am also searching for the other thing.Will tell you if I get something.Waiting for your hunch to come true.Thanks

A_and_N said...

This is so interesting and new to me. Never heard of chaunk. Hmm...and your pics are amazing :)

Rajani said...

thats a good piece of information! and i have never made urad dal - last week i added some sabut urad to kaali masoor and it was fantastic - so I am going to try this one too this week. I have been vary of the viscosity in urad.

Ramya said...

Dal - Truely a comfort food!

Click here for your award

Curry Leaf said...

Thanks for the info dear,I do not think curdling happens with vegan margarine as both are non diary.
Also I mixed heavy cream and tofu +soy milk paste for my savoury scones,there was no such thing.they came out perfect.But with butter only I see this issue atleast till now.
Take your own time for answering.I can wait and also will let you know something if I get something.This will definitely take time and we should not overstrain ourselves.Take care.

Srivalli said...

Thats looking good...thanks!

PG said...

Curryleaf, here is what i think about your puzzle:
One possible explaination would be like this: One basic thing is that fat and water repel. So, mixing it with watery things would cause it to appear like it is "curdelled"- though this term is reserved for proteinaceous things- or maybe it is a combination of two things, the second one being the "proteins" in the tofu which is basically 'denatured' i.e., 'curdelled' proteins without the whey. As you might know, in an acidic or sour medium proteins usually curdle.
But, this is all hypothesis, as we don't have 'controls', the most important part of an experiment. :)

mycookinghut said...

This is such a great dish. I love dhal - it's great to eat with rice or naan!

Rajee said...

Great dish!