Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rahar ko Daal – split yellow pigeon peas (without skins)

Simmer a pot of the Rahar ko Daal (रहर को दाल)  for your weeknight Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari meals - all time favorite of many Nepalese!

From my pantry - dried beans, lentils and peas - they come in wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. A great way to add protein to your diet!

Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari is the traditional meal of Nepal.  It consists of daal (legumes), bhaat (rice) and tarkaari (vegetables), and is is mostly eaten two times a day in rice-cultivating regions.  No Nepali meal of rice is complete without daal - made from any dried legumes, such as beans, lentils and peas.  When cooked daal is paired with rice, the meal is called daal-bhaat. In my next blog post, I will add more pictures and recipe of daal-bhaat.

Daal is very easy to cook and does not require any special skills. Today's recipe is a delicious, easy to make comforting daal that is slow-simmered in low heat with fresh ginger, turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon, salt and clarified butter (gheu). The daal is cooked until creamy and tender, not mushy or crunchy.  It is then finished off with extra spices that are fried in clarified butter and added to cooked daal for extra flavor.  This process is called tempering or "daal jhanne" by Nepalese.  Many Nepalese prefer rahar ko daal over many other nutritious and hulled-split daals because of its pleasant taste and flavor.  Nepalese generally prefer soupy daal rather than thicker porridge-like forms of it, making it suitable to eat over boiled rice.

The scientific name of Rahar is Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp, and the common name is Pigeon Pea, Red gram, Cajan pea, Congo pea, yellow dahl (English);  ambrévade, pois d’Angole (French);  straucherbse (German);  arhar, tuver or toovar (India);  feijoa-guandu, guandú, guisante-de-Angola (Portuguese);  cachito, gandul (Spanish);  kachang (Asia) - source Wikipedia.

Pigeon peas are usually sold split without skins.  The daal has a slightly nutty taste, is easy to digest, and resembles yellow split chickpeas.  In Nepal, rahar ko daal is considered the king of daals.  They are available dry or lightly coated with castor oil. The oily kind looks glossy and the oil preserves freshness and discourages spoilage.  If you are using the oily type, make sure to wash them several times in hot running water to remove oil completely.  They are cooked by themselves or can be mixed with other legumes.  All imported daals (sold in burlap sacks)  must be picked over for tiny stones, dirt, or any foreign matter.  To clean daal, spread it on a large platter, pick through it carefully, and discard foreign matter.

Here is a close-up picture of
rahar ko daal that is hulled and split into two rounds. My mother's kitchen help, Thuli Bajai, suggests "not to add salt while simmering the daal, because it slows down the cooking time" -- she always emphasizes her method and tells me in Nepali  - "नून हालेर बसाल्यॊ भने, दाल गल्दैन - खालि पानि मात्रै हाल्येर पहिले बसाल्ने" In my experiment with several batches with or without salt, I did not see much difference and I am back to my regular method of simmering with salt.

Images of freshly picked pigeon pea pods -  I picked up some pods from the plant just to take pictures.  The farmer, Tek Bahadur Thapa who showed me the plant told me, "we leave the pods on the plant until they have completely dried up and leathery before harvesting them." The next four pictures are the images of pigeon peas and the plants in the village near Narayan Ghat, Terai section of Nepal. They are usually sold dried, but fresh ones are also eaten as a cooked vegetable.

Images of freshly picked and shelled pigeon pea pods and refreshing Bottle Brush flower from the local farm.
Pictured here is the vine that is loaded with podded pigeon peas -  this picture was taken during my morning walk in the village.  The plump pods are shinning with morning dew drops.

Pictures of freshly shelled pigeon peas.  The name "pigeon peas" has nothing to do with pigeon, but they are a well known protein powerhouse.  These peas are dried, split into two rounds, and the the skins are removed.  The finished product is pale-yellow to golden in color.  They are one of the most delicious daal and has a wonderful taste. They are sold in the Nepali markets as "rahar ko daal." 

Here is a recipe for a delicious and a quick way of cooking rahar ko daal from a skinless, split yellow daal.  There are two basic steps steps in cooking this recipe, first slow-simmer the beans with several herb and spices, then temper with aromatic spices and clarified butter.

1 cup split yellow pigeon peas, without skins
2 tablespoons clarified butter (gheu)
1 (1-inch) stick cinnamon
1- 1/2 teaspoon peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 small bay leaves whole
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
 2 whole cloves
A small pinch ground asafetida (less than 1/8 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon of lime juice
Chopped cilantro

Combine the daal, 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter, cinnamon, ginger, salt, turmeric, bay leaves, and 3-4 cups of water in a large deep, heavy pot.  Bring the mixture to boil over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture is not boiling over or sticking and lumping together.  There is no need to skim away foam that rises to the surface, because it contains flavorful ingredients.  When it comes to a full boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring from time to time, until the daal have swelled to double their dry volume, softened and fully cooked, 25 to 30 minutes.  if needed, add more water to attain a soupy consistency.  Simmer for 5 minutes everytime you add water.  Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.

In a separate small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons clarified butter over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the cumin and saute until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 seconds.  Add the cloves and asafetida, remove the skillet from the heat, immediately pour the entire mixture into the cooked daal, and stir well.  Cover, and allow the seasoning to soak in and develop the flavor for 5 minutes.  Mix the lemon juice, transfer it to a serving dish, sprinkle the cilantro on top and serve.

... learn to recognize a different variety of daals ...
... freshly cooked rahar ko daal  is a great partner with freshly cooked rice
... best home-cooked daal-bhaat-tarkaari... served with seasonal vegetables, rahar ko daal, goat curry and home-made refreshing yogurt.
....start off the dinner with Nepali flavor - consists of rice with the combination of rahar ko daal, fiery tomato chutney with green chilies, pan-sauteed asparagus, and fish curry - all made with minimum spices.
Perfectly cooked rahar ko daal at Thakali kitchen - lovely presentation of authentic daal-bhaat-tarkaari
The above picture of Rahar ko daal is cooked with onion, ginger, garlic, tomato along with other tempering spices which gives a unique flavor  - My mother-in-law, Aama Hazoor was an excellent traditional Nepali cook and I learned a lot from her.  In her way of traditional way of Nepali daal cooking method,  she would never add onion-garlic-tomato.  I knew she would never approve of me putting these, but when she tried the daal here, I saw a smile on her face.  She said, "It's hard to believe the delicious flavor onion-ginger-garlic-tomato gives to daal."
Delicious, super easy and a family favorite daal!
Picture above is chanaa ko daal (split, hauled brown chick-peas) and picture bottom is rahar ko daal (split, hauled pigeon peas)  -   one gets easily confused by seeing the similarity of these daals. They are almost same size and both have golden yellow color.  If you notice closely, the yellow split chanaa daal is a little thicker-larger-rounder and takes a little longer to cook, but rahar ko daal is slightly flatter and smaller and has a shorter cooking time.
... there's not much that is as delicious as a simple bowl of daal ...

The New York Times recently published an article "The How and Why of Daal" by Davis Tanis. Please click the link to read the entire article.

  I left an online comment after the article was published, and would like to share it with you -  "Beautifully written article by David Tanis and love the pictures ... I come from Kathmandu, Nepal and our main signature dish is "Daal-Bhaat-Tarkaari" - which translates to daal-rice-vegetable combination. Daal is our simple everyday dish and we cook in simple ways - a pinch of "hing" aka Asafetida, is a must spice in our daal along other spices like ground turmeric, fresh ginger, garlic - when you eat daal combined with rice, it is suppose to remove bloating and act as anti-flatulent diet. You may want to check how Nepalese cook their black daal (maas ko daal) in an iron pot (tapke), simply tempered with "jimbu" Himalayan herb and clarified butter".

Copyright Information

All information on the Taste of Nepal blog are restricted use under copyright law. You may not re-use words, stories, photographs, or other posted material without the explicit written consent and proper credit to Jyoti Pathak. If you would like to use any materials here, please contact me.