That Bitter Happiness

Titar Daal, the bitter happiness



Poila Baishak, celebrated as the first day of the Bengali calender has always been special to all of us, Bengalis. The early morning queues in front of Kalighat and Dakshineshwar temples praying for the Mother's grace and peace along with the pujo of the new ledger haal khata by all Bengali businessmen remains a tradition. My memories of Bengali New Year's are the sweetest.. literally speaking ( bear in mind the varieties of sondesh, roshogolla and doi which a Bengali can gorge upon on this special day ). The day reminds me of Baba who would come home with multiple new Bengali calendars having colourful pictures of gods and goddesses and the mandatory mishtir baksho ( box of sweets) as gifts from the local fish and egg vendors in his bazaarer jhola. It is this day, when all the traders would meticulously clean every nooks and corners later decorating their shops with marigold flowers, send out invites to all their old and new customers, pamper them with gifts and sweets to mark the beginning of another remarkable year of hope and profits. I can never forget those Noboborsho evenings ( fresh after the Chaitra sale episode ) when Maa would drape herself in a crisp taant pristine saree, dress me up in brand new clothes and visit all the jewellery shops collecting our rightful gifts and having our quota of chilled bottles of cold drinks while our overly extended family would wait at home for a lavish dinner of Mutton Kosha, Basanti Pulao, Fish Fry and all things nice.

The excitement of gift collection gradually dwindled along with age although I still wait eagerly for the mishti boxes in Baba's jhola. Today, as an adult, Bong Noboborsho holds special place in my heart especially for the marathon meals. This year's weekend long celebrations started long back on Friday ( since this year, it was a Sunday ) with all sorts of Bengali comfort foods and so its high time we give our tummy a break.

Although Bengalis are not known for detoxing, including bitterness deliberately as a part of our meal goes long back in time. Korola / Ucche / Bitter gourd known for aiding in the digestion process, acts as an anti - oxidant and can work quite well to relieve hangovers. So. few days after these glorious occasions like the New Year's, you deserve a break from all that guilty oil and the rich spices. Daal - Chawal comes to our rescue during those hard times and if you can include certain wonder veggies in the lentil soups, your stomach will embrace the essential nutrients. Titar daal ( bitter lentil soup ) is one such well earned break which is filling, healthy also having a gingery aroma camouflaging the bitterness of that ugly looking fruit to a large extent. The small chunks of lau / Bottle gourd somewhere in each bite has the ability to calm you down and make you feel good about your diet choices. So, for all those karela haters give this Bengali Daal a try, to fulfil your quota of a nutrient rich diet, perfect for the hot summers in the middle of a busy week, when another party awaits you on the next weekend.

Ingredients
  • Korola / Ucche  - 2 medium sized, thinly sliced, remove the bigger seeds and smear the slices with a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt. Leave them marinated for at least 15 minutes to release their water. The step prevents the excess soaking up of oil while frying.
  • Bottle gourd  - 200 grams ( approx. ). Remove its skin and dice into medium sized pieces.
  • Ginger - 2 inches, finely grated.

Turmeric smeared korola pieces, bottle gourd and grated ginger

  • Yellow Moong Daal - 3/4 cup, washed properly with clean water.


Washed Moong Daal

  • Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
  • Dry red chilli - 1 
  • Mustard oil - 1 teaspoon for tempering, 2 -3 teaspoon for shallow frying the korola pieces.
  • Turmeric powder - 1.5 teaspoon
  • Salt
Procedure
  • Heat 2 teaspoon of mustard oil in a kadhai.


  • Sqeeze out the water from the korola and throw them in the hot oil. Shallow fry them for around 10 minutes over low flame. Take them out. This step helps in subduing the bitterness of the korola.

Korola released water


Fried away the bitterness


  • In a cooker put a teaspoon of oil, heat it up and add the dry chilli and mustard seeds.


  • Once they start spluterring, add the grated ginger and saute over low flame for around a minute.

Feel that gingery flavour

  • Add the moong daal along with thrice the amount of water. You can add more water (if you want ) after cooking the daal.


  • Add the bottle gourd and the previously fried korola pieces into the daal along with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt according to your taste.


  • Pressure cook the whole mixture. After a whistle on high flame, completely lower the flame and wait for another 2 whistles. Let the steam settle and open the cooker. Give a stir. It would look a bit thick, because of the melted bottle gourd pieces, somewhat like this.


  • You can adjust the consistency by adding a little more water or boiling off the excess water and your Titar Daal is ready to take off the gas top.

Titar Daal along with some warm Bhaat


Have a look at this wonderful sight !

I made some Badhakopir torkari ( cabbage mix ) and a few Potol bhaja ( fried pointed gourds ) as sides, to go along with the Titar daal this time, but seldom do I need them with this Daal. That hint of ginger and the soothing comfort of Daal -Bhaat will make you fall in love with that soft bitterness.

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