This has always been a family favourite dish. Baba can never say no to it and even I love it earnestly. Maa cooks it the best and even I can do pretty good justice to it. Mr. Husband has developed a taste for it lately and since then there is no looking back. Yes, there is also a vegetarian version of this dal which is equally popular. But, in my family, when there is Kalai Dal it has to be with Macher Matha (fish head). When in season we cook it with Ilish Macher Matha (Hilsa fish head). Other than this, Katla Macher Matha (Catla fish head) is also a great option. You can also prepare it with Rui Macher Matha (Rohu fish head). Choice is yours always!
Usually, the vegetarian version of this dal goes amazingly well with Aloo Posto and this is always a super hit pair in any Bengali vegetarian kitchen. But, this non-vegetarian version is different. I always enjoy it with different kinds of bhaja (fries). As winter is here, today I have paired it with Mulo Bhaja (Radish fry) and my lunch happened to be so much satisfying. A bhat-ghoom (nap after a wholesome meal) was mandatory and here I woke up and enjoying my evening tea. Yes, tea and blog are going hand in hand…
Considered to be great for heart, skin and digestion, Kalai Dal is also rich in iron and thus good for you if you have a lower hemoglobin level. Bengali cuisine has a special place for pulses and each one has its own distinctive benefit. Of all the verities of dal I eat, three of my very favourites are Macher Matha diye Kalai Dal, Macher Matha diye Bhaja Moong Dal and Piyaj diye Masoor Dal.
Having said that, here’s the recipe of Macher Matha diye Kalai Dal for you all.
- 1 fish head (Kalta or Rui)
- 1 cup kalai dal
- 2 inch ginger, very finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 dry red chilli
- 1/2 tea-spoon panch phoron (five spice blend)
- 1/2 tea-spoon fennel seed
- 1 tea-spoon turmeric powder (1/2 + 1/2)
- 2 table-spoon mustard oil + some more to fry fish head
- water, as required
- salt, according to taste
- Rub the fish head with little salt and 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder. Heat required oil in a pan and fry the head until brownish. Remove and keep aside.
- Heat a pan or wok (preferably iron) and dry roast kalai dal until aroma starts coming. Remove. Do not overdo the process as we want dal to be roasted and not charred.
- Wash the roasted dal properly under running water and soak for 15-20 minutes.
- Add soaked dal, 1/2 tea-spoon turmeric powder and 1 tea-spoon salt in a pressure cooker. Add water so much so that it should be 1 inch above the dal. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Blend the dal with the help of a dal blender to make it mushy. Keep aside.
- Heat 2 table-spoon oil in a pan (or wok) and temper with bay leaf, dry red chilli, panch phoron and funnel seed. Allow them to splutter.
- Add ginger and over low flame, stir until raw smell goes off.
- Add fish head and stir frequently with oil and spices and with the help of spatula, break it into pieces.
- Now, add boiled dal, mix well. Add extra salt (if required) at this stage.
- Add more water if required. This dal should have a thicker consistency, so, add water accordingly.
- Cover the lid and over low to medium flame, cook for 10 minutes.
- Turn off the flame and your Macher Matha diye Kalai Dal is ready to be served now.
Serve hot with piping hot rice and don’t forget to squeeze a piece of lime on it. 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.