A North Indian Mini Vegetarian Thaali ~ Lucknowi Dal / Dal Lucknawi

This meal was not part of the plan until a few days ago.  The originally scheduled post was the first thaali I cooked for this event, a simple lunch from Andhra. I realized while drafting that there was not really color contrast in the images and the thaali looked drab. This is what happens with me when I prepare posts in advance and have the extra time to mull over. 😉Then I thought of replacing it with a Kerala breakfast platter I cooked last month as I had two more thaalis from Andhra. And over weekend I decided that it is going to be a north Indian meal on the spur of the moment when I was cooking our lunch since I already posted one meal this week from southern part of India. I did not spend much time in deciding the menu as I was going to randomly cook from the northern region of India rather than picking one particular state which would have needed some planning. 

My thali doesn't contain the ubiquitous chole, dal makhani, or any paneer dish - the kind of Punjabi dishes popular all over the world (or where ever the presence of an Indian eatery is) and has become equivalent to north Indian cuisine. There are more states packed in northern India compared to other regions and so obviously there is a wide variety in cooking techniques and recipes across the region. The Indian food that has become popular worldwide in restaurants like the tandoor dishes, breads, curries all come from this region. I am not going into detail here because it is beyond the scope of this post.  
 
This platter is a balanced and nutritious meal just like the Tamil Nadu meal I posted. North Indian meals in general include rotis and rice for their carbs. The roti served may vary regionally and I included jeera rice, phulkas and tikar in my platter. The protein part in a north Indian meal comes from dal, a lentil based side dish to go with the rice and rotis. I included a subtly spicy dal from Uttar Pradesh and a raita as I had made my tikar spicier. A bowl of yogurt / raita or even buttermilk aka chaas served at the end of the meal is protein packed too. The vegetable dish aka subzi is a side dish as well. And if the subzi happens to be a paneer (Indian cheese) based one which is common in some of the northern states, one would get an extra dose of protein. If I had paneer, I would have gone with it though it would have been a stereotypical choice. I went instead with aloo matar making my paneer detesting husband happy. I served dahi baingan too since I wanted to include a Kashmiri dish as well. I had jalebi in the platter as I had some homemade ones though a sweet dish is not eaten by everyone for every day meals. Simple vegetable based salad and chutney / pickle is a common part of the meal. We had carrot and cucumber salad and a mixed vegetable achaar.

My north Indian lunch platter had 
Salad and pickle (Not pictured.)
Jeera rice 
Phulkas - Wheat flour flat breads
Tikar - Rotis from Rajathan, made using maize and wheat flours, onion and spices.
Aloo matar - Potato and peas curry from Punjab 
Dahi baingan - Kashmiri dish of fried brinjals in yogurt base 
Lucknawi dal - A lentil dish from Uttar Pradesh that is lightly spiced and cooked adding milk.
Raita - A yogurt dip
Homemade jalebi - Dessert
I am today posting the recipe for Lucknawi dal which is a simple flavored one that I found online. What makes this dal unique is that here toor dal aka pigeon peas are initially cooked until done and further boiled in milk and then given a flavorful tempering of with cumin, chillies and asafoetida. One can add some garlic cloves as well in the seasoning. There is another version from Lucknow or Awadh cuisine called Sultani dal where the dal is cooked in a mixture of milk, yogurt and cream. Sure that sounds like a dish fit for the king. Lucknawi dal would be thinner than what it looks like in the above image. I had made it slightly thicker so that my seasoning doesn't sink and disappear.

Ingredients for dal:
1 cup toor dal  / pigeon peas
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. ghee / oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4 red chillies, broken to bits (or to taste)
A pinch of asafoetida powder
Minced cilantro to garnish

Directions:
* Rinse and pressure cook toor dal along with 2 cups of water, green chillies and turmeric until soft. (The number of whistles depend upon the pressure cooker used and the quality of dal being used.)
* When the valve pressure is gone, remove the lid and add salt. Slightly mash the dal with the back of the ladle. 
* Heat ghee / oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and red chillies. When the cumin starts to turn brown, add asafoetida. Immediately add the cooked dal to the pan. 
* Next add a cup of milk and about a cup of water to the dal and simmer the mixture for about five minutes.
* Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

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