“If you had to name a dish that would sum up the essence of Odisha – what would it be?” – This is the question I get asked a lot! And I do mean – a lot. And my first instantaneous answer is always – the humble, unassuming Odia comfort offering – the Dalma. For me, dalma is to Odisha what Undhiyo is to Gujarat or Pav Bhaji is to Mumbai – that core, essential dish that sums the inclination of the palates of its people. Its simplicity and ease of preparation, mélange of flavors and just the entire history behind it makes it the contender and resultant winner for the honor of being the state dish. Quite simply put, it’s a surprisingly effortless yet utterly delicious lentil stew with seasonal vegetables that gets the final punch from a delicious tadka of cumin seeds and a pinch of jeera-lanka powder (a very commonly used in Odia dishes -red chilli cumin powder). Being a versatile dish that it is, this recipe suited all seasons and reasons.
Most famously known for being served at the holy deity Jagannath’s abode in Puri, this dish permeates to each and every household in Odisha. As very aptly put by writer James Osland – “For worshippers at Odisha’s Jagannath Temple, a dish of lentil stew with coconut is itself a form of prayer.” Couldn’t have been said better – a form of prayer and offering on days when the entire family is home to savor. This rings especially more so in ours, when every Sunday, in observance of the day of the Sun, we would eat this very typical meal. This dish holds such a special place in my heart and like all such dishes it invokes memories of Sunday lunches with the family when it was almost a ritual to have arua bhata (a special kind of rice), alu bharta (mashed potatoes with a hint of cumin seeds and red chillies), and of course the dalma with its various accompaniments for lunch. I have some very distinct, joyous memories of these lunches. For a brief time, to trouble my younger brother, who was the biggest fan of the alu bharta (mashed potatoes), I would hide his ball of deliciousness inside his mound of rice. He would freak out at first (and eventually just act like it) and then frantically search for his beloved alu bharta and then we all would break out into a fit of laughter when he found his inside his rice mound. It seems all so distinct and clear as yesterday that till today – every time I eat this meal, I always think of this incident.
A surprisingly effortless yet utterly delicious, typical Odia lentil stew with seasonal vegetables that gets the final punch from a delicious tadka of cumin seeds and a pinch of jeera-lanka powder (a very commonly used in Odia dishes -red chilli cumin powder).
Ingredients to serve 4
- Soak the toor dal atleast 10 mins earlier to get a soft and smooth dal. Its completely optional although you can notice the difference more so if you are pressure cooki Boil all the vegetables (Pumpkin, Carrots, Potatoes, Green beans, eggplant etc) with the toor dal, turmeric powder, crushed ginger and bay leaf. You can also pressure cook till one whistle.
- Note: I usually add in seasonal vegetables that are available at anytime although the very typical Dalma that I have grown up eating at my place has potatoes, eggplant, pumpkin and carrots.
- For the tadka: In a pan, add ghee, cumin seeds and after it splutters, add in 1/2 C water to the ghee and let it boil. Then add in the jeera lanka powder (Red chilli and cumin seed powder) and boil over low medium heat till ghee floats on top.
- Add the tadka to the Dalma and then adjust for salt and sweet. Simmer it for 10-15 mins
- Sprinkle with fresh grated coconut, chopped cilantro and serve hot.