Dalna is a very popular form of Bengali curry and is typically prepared without onion and garlic. Thus, it is also considered as satvik bhojon and is widely prepared in Bengali vegetarian kitchens. Dalna, if cooked properly, can give a tough competition to any popular rich non vegetarian item like chicken, mutton or fish. Dida‘s kitchen used to be the paradise of vegetarian dishes, specially various forms of dalna and kofta curries. Dida is long gone, but very well managed to pass on her skill to her daughter, Maa. Chhanar Dalna is one of Maa‘s specialties and I learned it from her.
Chhana or Cottage Cheese is prepared by curdling milk – either you do it by adding lemon juice/vinegar or sometimes, some cooking malfunction can do it for you. Once the milk curdles, we get the cheese part separated from water, that’s Chhana. It is widely used in Bengali kitchen – from sweets to spicy curries, we prepare many delectable dishes with it.
Chhanar Dalna is a traditional Bengali recipe and probably has it’s origin in Bengali Hindu widows’ kitchen. As, back then, the conservative society prohibited widows from doing, wearing and eating things that were considered ugro (something that is vibrant and rich and can trigger desire). Widows were not allowed to eat non vegetarian food and thus, to compensate the nutrition that comes from animal protein, these ladies created many recipes with milk and other nutritious vegetables. Later on, these recipes came out from their kitchen and accepted by every Bengali household for their nutrition values and utterly delicious tastes. Chhanar Dalna is one of such recipes.
Chhanar Dalna should not be confused with the typical Paneer Curry that every restaurant serves. There is a huge difference when you curdle milk and make chhana out of it and when you buy paneer from the market. I don’t like paneer, but really relish homemade cottage cheese. Chhanar Dalna is one of my very favourite vegetarian dish and I make it often. Here’s the step-by-step recipe for you all.
For Making Chhana:
- 750 ml full fat milk
- 3 table-spoon lemon juice
For Making Chhanar Dalna:
- 4 table-spoon gram flour (besan)
- 1 large potato, diced
- 1 tomato, chopped
- 5 green chillies, slitted from middle
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon stick (each 1 inch)
- 5 green cardamom
- 5 cloves
- 1/2 tea-spoon cumin seeds
- 1.5 tea-spoon turmeric powder (1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2)
- 1 tea-spoon cumin powder
- 1 tea-spoon coriander powder
- 1 tea-spoon red chilli powder (1/2 + 1/2)
- 1/2 tea-spoon Kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1/2 tea-spoon garam masala powder
- 5 table-spoon mustard oil (3 + 2)
- 1 tea-spoon sugar
- 2 cup warm water
- salt, according to taste
- Heat the milk and bring to boil. Turn off the flame and add lemon juice. You will see cheese getting separated from water. Let it cool down to the room temperature.
- Drain the water and squeeze the excess water. Chhana is done.
- Take chhana in a bowl and add besan, 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder, 1/2 tea-spoon red chilli powder and salt. Mix well. Sprinkle some water and make a dough.
- Cut small balls from the dough and make round using your palm. Press them to flatten a little. Keep aside.
- Heat 3 table-spoon oil in a pan and fry the cheese balls until they are golden brown. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same oil, shallow fry the potato adding 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder and salt. Remove and keep aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same pan and temper with cumin seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Allow them to splutter.
- Add chopped tomato, green chillies, cumin powder, remaining turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, Kashmiri red chilli powder and salt. Sprinkle little water and stir in medium flame until the tomato turns mushy.
- Add the fried potato and mix well. Add water and cover the lid. Cook for 5 minutes or until the potato is half cooked on medium flame.
- Now, add the chhana balls and give a quick mix.
- On a low to medium flame, cook for 15 minutes or until the balls are properly cooked.
- Open the lid and add garam masala powder and sugar. Mix well and turn off the flame.
- The Chhanar Dalna is ready to be served now.
This delectable creamy and spicy curry will surely win your heart if you have it with piping hot rice. If you follow my kind of eating, always squeeze a piece of Gondhoraj Lebu (lemon) while eating to enhance the taste and for better digestions.
Enjoy this authentic Bengali delicacy and do drop me a comment giving your feedback about this recipe. You can also tag me on Instagram using the handle @when_a_bong_cooks. Happy eating!