Sunday, May 30, 2010

Kairi chi Dal/ Split Chickpeas with Raw Mangoes

She looked around her and realised that there was no way out, that she would have to eat it, the plateful of kairi chi dal that they had been served. She stole a furtive glance to her left and saw Aamir shovelling spoonful after spoonful into his mouth, muttering ‘delicious’ and ‘yum’ ever so often. A quick glance to her right and other members of their entourage were doing the same.

Yes, she would have to eat it, else the tabloid journalist accompanying them would have a field day declaring how the heroine of the movie acted snooty and refused to touch a morsel. And moreover, she would hurt the feelings of the lady who had made it if she didn't eat.

Yet, she couldn’t get herself to eat even a single spoonful – she dreaded the torrent of emotions it would unleash - and so she toyed with her food, absently pushing it this way and that on her plate, as she took in her surroundings. It was a simple house that had homeliness written on every wall.

There was a time when she had known a house like this intimately, she thought.

Coming here to this house hadn’t quite been part of the plan, but then her co-star Aamir could be extremely eccentric sometimes.

They had been touring the country as part of publicity for their soon to be released movie; the promotional blitzkrieg had taken them to theatres and multiplexes, malls and restaurants in an attempt to connect with the audiences. But barging in unannounced into somebody’s house? That was something that happened on the spur of the moment.

They were waiting at a traffic light when Aamir saw this chawl at the corner of the street. “Let’s go visit some house in that chawl,” he said. “It would fit in wonderfully with the theme of the movie.”

The sycophants accompanying them had lauded the idea and that is how she found herself in this house; the paint peeling off its walls, a noisy fan spinning furiously, its attempt at offering some respite from the relentless summer heat almost futile.

There was a time when she had lived in a house just like this one, she recalled.

Their visit had created quite a stir, people from the neighbouring houses were thronging to see them and the ladies of the house had bent over backwards bringing out tea, coffee and snacks for them.

Her publicist gave her a subtle nudge. “You’ve not touched your plate and everyone is watching.”

Reluctantly, she ate a spoonful. It had the perfect balance of spicy, sour and sweet, with just the right crunch. A burst of freshness from the cilantro and grated coconut. Exactly the way she liked kairi chi dal.

Exactly the way her aayi used to make it, she remembered. Exactly the way it tasted the last time she had eaten it.

She could barely swallow that small spoonful. The lump in her throat made swallowing difficult.

“Did you like it? I helped my mother make it,” said a voice. Looking up, she saw a young girl, her long hair neatly braided into 2 pleats. She was apparently shy for she was clinging to her mother’s sari, her face virtually covered by the pallu.

She used to be like that little girl, shy and reticent and extremely attached to her mother. Her mother was the centre of her universe and vice versa, till that fateful day 6 years ago when her actions and decisions had changed it all:

“Aayi, there is something I need to talk to you about,” she began, tentatively.

“What is it Gauri? And grate the kairi quickly. If you want to take the kairi chi dal in your lunch box, you’d better work those hands,” her mother admonished, as she added the coarsely ground chana dal to the hot oil.

“Aayi, I don’t know how to tell you this, but some days back I had sent my pictures for the Miss India contest,” she said, “I got a letter today confirming my selection in the final 24 contestants. I have to go to Mumbai next week,” she concluded.

She knew her mother would be upset at this revelation and prepared herself for an angry outburst. But her mother turned up the flame of the gas and proceeded to vigorously stir the dal. When she finally reduced the flame and covered the vessel with a tight fitting lid, she turned to her and said, “ Turn off the gas after 5 minutes and stir in the grated raw mango. Top it off with the coriander and grated coconut. I am getting late for work, pack your own lunch box today.”

“But aayi, what about…”

Her mother had silenced her mid sentence. “There will be no further discussion on that matter. I want you to finish your medical studies. Two years and you will be a doctor! And,” she continued, “Should you pursue this stupid beauty pageant thing, I will cut all ties with you,” she said as she picked up her handbag and left for work.

Tears streaming down her eyes, Gauri packed her lunch box and gathered her books. She was torn between her dream and her mother’s ambition. She glanced at the watch. Her friend would come to pick her up in 10 minutes; the bus to Mumbai left in 25 minutes. She took a deep breath and made her decision. She threw in some clothes into a suitcase, wrote a brief note to her mother, used her lunchbox as a paper weight and walked out of her home.

She didn’t make it beyond the first round of the pageant but managed to catch the attention of a film producer. The rest, as they say, was history. Instead of Dr. Gauri, she had become megastar Gauri.

Another voice jolted her back to the present. “Yes, she is my little helper in the house,” laughed the girl’s mother. “She loves your movies and can mimic all your dance moves!" The mother’s eyes lit up with pride as she spoke about her daughter.

Seeing her, Gauri felt a pang. Yes, she had always missed her mother all these years, but today, her pain at being estranged from her mother was suddenly overwhelming her.

Would her mother be proud of her achievement, the heights she had reached, she wondered. What would she say to her when they met? And most importantly, how was her mother?

She could not bear it any longer, this separation from her mother. She just had to meet her mother and reconcile with her. Yes, she would go right away to her home, to her mother. She calculated the distance to her home town; from here, it would take her around 6 hours to reach by road. This meant that by the time she reached, it would be very late in the night.

But then, it was never too late to go back home, was it?

Sandeepa is hosting the 2nd edition of our food fiction event, 'Of Chalks and Chopsticks' and this is my entry for the event.

Have you sent in your entries to Sandeepa yet?

Kairi chi dal is a very popular evening snack in Maharashtra in the summer months and is something I absolutely love.

The final taste of this dal depends a lot on individual taste buds. I load mine with a lot of raw mango - I love mine tangy, my husband, on the other hand doesn't like it so sour.

You are looking for a balance between sweet, sour and spicy that tickles your taste buds, so use the quantities, especially of the raw mango, given here more as a guideline.

Once you've found the right balance of the three tastes, believe me, you are going to go into absolute raptures of delight.


Chana dal: 1/4 cup, soaked overnight
Raw mango, grated: 1 (use lime juice as a substitute if you can't find raw mangoes)
Ginger: 1" piece
Green chillies: 3-4

Oil: 2 tbsps
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Asafoetida: 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp

Salt, to taste
Sugar: 1 1/2 tsp

for garnishing (essential):

Chopped coriander leaves: 3 tsps
Grated cocout: 2 tbsps


Soak the chana dal for at least 5 hours, preferably overight.

Drain the water and let the dal 'drip dry' for about 30 mins.

Grind alongwith the green chillies and ginger to a coarse powder.

Heat oil in a wok and pop in the mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add in the asafoetida and the turmeric powder followed by the coarsely ground dal. Sprinkle the salt. Stir briskly for 2-3 minutes, then reduce the flame to the lowest possible - and cook covered for a further 2 minutes. When you uncover the lid, steam should rise up from the dal. Stir once more and turn off the gas.

Stir in the sugar and the grated raw mango - don't add in all the mango in one go - taste as you add some in - stop adding the raw mango once you reach your desired level of sweet, spicy and sour.

Garnish with grated coconut and chopped coriander leaves.

This is also my entry to MLLA - 23 that Susan herself is hosting this month.


  1. Hi
    This daal dish really new to me..looks so tempting and great pics...bookmarking it..

  2. lovely story and its never late to reconcile, so true .. we daughters always want our mothers by their side in success and even in failures.Lovely story to go with this yum dal.I would love to have that bowl of dal as evening snack.
    Beautiful picture.
    hugs and smiles

  3. Lovely story Aqua. And thanks for the kairi chi dal. I have always loved it but I can never make it light and fluffy the way yours is. It is probably too much water while grinding. Got to try your way. :)

  4. Lovely story wonderfully written Aqua!
    Bengalis make kairi dal too but it is the liquid version .. I'd love to trythis version once. :-)

  5. Looks really delicious! Photography is too good!

  6. As said before you can seriously think abt taking up writing :)...inbtw this looks delicious and lovely pic

  7. Tangy dal looks very interesting, awesome click and beautiful write up.

  8. Nice story and nice dal loved the clicks.

  9. We make a mushy one, it's an Andhra speciality, with toor dal. This looks really different, or rather, remotely similar to the sundal sold on Chennai beaches. Will try it soon.

  10. Oh sorry, meant to comment on the story - poignant.

  11. The story is lovely Aqua . And the daal equally so- am going to make it . I wonder if I have time to do a post .

  12. aquadaze, I was literally lost in your story, felt it as if I was watching a movie. Love the way you wrote it and I bookmarked your recipe, will surely make it.

  13. A sad and beautiful story, so well crafted. Family estrangement is such a sorrowful thing.

    Thanks for your MLLA recipe, Aqua. It looks very lively and tasty.

  14. What a beautiful story and so well written! Have you thought of writing a book on short stories? I am sure you would do great!
    This dish is very new to me but I love the sweet and tangy flavors in it! Bookmarked!!

  15. Jagruti, thanks. Hope you like the dal.

    Jaya, yes no matter how old we are, we always need our moms!

    Jaya W, the key is to use no water while grinding. Let me know if it works for you.

    Sharmila, hope you blog about your version of kairi dal!

    Rak, Priya, Swathi, thanks!

    Sra, thanks...actually when I read your first comment, I was dismayed that you hadn't said anything about the story!

    Eve, hope you do make time, I would love to read you!

    Priya M, thanks.

    Susan, yes, estrangement from family and friends hurts.

    Priti and Parita, I don't know whether I really have it in me to ever write a book, thank you very much for believing I can write one. I cannot even begin to tell you what it does to my morale :)

  16. Loved reading your post and amazing pictures too :)

  17. Lovely story Aqua, makes you think.

    Dal looks yum, tangy and spicy.

  18. Gosh the way u write these days, no word, it is like a short novel. U re very talented and ur blog stands out the crowd! The pict is mind blowing :)

  19. What a story!! I loved every word of it. The recipe is very much like the thenga manga sundal that is famous in south particularly in Tamil Nadu.

  20. such a lovely story! writing a fiction just seems so beyond me but as I see all these wonderful stories on all the blogs, i must confess i am heavily tempted :) Kairichi daal looks delicious, i love that click.

  21. Don't know about Kairi Chi Dal Aqua but the story is beautiful. Thanks for this lovely entry

  22. Very interesting and will try the dal...
    bloghopping here for the first time.. Must say.. you have a neat space.. with great clicks :)


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