There is a fable in the Ancient Hindu text, the Shiva Purana. Shiva, the lord of destruction tells his other half, Parvati, that nothing in the world (including food) is really necessary since the entire world is but Maya or illusion. (turns out Neuroscience actually verifies this from a certain perspective, but that is another story). Upset by his statement (he had, after all renounced the world and preferred not to have any attachments and had overcome the pervasive, all consuming EGO), Parvati, the goddess of all things material leaves his desolate abode, Mt. Kailash and moves to the ancient city of Kashi (Modern day Benaras / Varanasi). In due course, pangs of hunger start gnawing on Shiva and he goes looking for sustenance to appease his hunger, only to discover that there is simply no food to be found. He hears that no one ever goes hungry in Kashi because the resident goddess there provides food to all those who sought it. He reaches Kashi, to find Parvati, in the form of Annapurna doling out food to everyone. Admitting that he was wrong to dismiss food as an illusion, he reconciles with her. (another take home message here.. The Female of the species is ALWAYS right, even in the divine world!).
Food is so so important to the existence of life that the Hindu scriptures refer to it as 'Anna Mya Kosha' or the corporeal sheath of the body, nourished by food. It is common in Indian homes to offer a portion of Rice, salted dal and a drop of ghee as a daily offering before reverently consuming the food as a gift or Prasad from the Almighty . (I suppose the equivalent of saying Grace before dinner) .
A Rose by any other name ... SO goes the adage. In terms of Indian cuisine, I can't think of any dish that is singularly relished as a daily comfort food in practically every corner (& the middle) of India.
Call it what you will, Varan Baath, Parruppu saadham, Dal chawal. It reigns as Numero Uno in Indian homes.
You will seldom find the basic form in any restaurant, but please take my word, the flavors of the Dal with a touch of sea salt and a generous dollop of melted ghee over steaming hot rice is simply unbeatable.
2 cups plain cooked Basmati rice
1 cup Tuvar dal
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chile powder
1 sprig curry leaves
1 large pinch asafetida
juice of 1/2 a lime / lemon.
Rinse the dal, add about 3 cups water and the turmeric. Cook in a pressure cooker until its completely mushed. Allow to cool before adding salt and mashing the lentils completely into a smooth paste.
Heat oil in a skillet and add the cumin seeds to sputter. Add the curry leaves followed by asafetida and the chile powder. when the spices 'bloom' add the mixture into the dal and stir to combine. Add the lemon juice prior to serving.
Wishing everyone of you a wonderful & Happy 2013!
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