A dal for the Road with a little bit of History – Dhabha Dal

Before the railways connected India with India itself, there were only roads that were the primary source of transport throughout the length and breadth of the vastness that is India. Imagine living in the olden days where a Horse or a Bullock cart was your mode of transport or worst a palanquin in which you jostled and bumped around till you reached your destination.

1-IMG_6079Sher Shah Suri an Afghan emperor who ruled over the Northern part of India during the 16th century had the foresight to recognize how the landscape of the country he conquered was. He decided to build a road to link the remote locations under his rule for better administration. And hence he built the first highway in India called as “Sadak-e-Azam (‘great road’), which was later renamed as “The Grand Trunk Road” by the British. Since the highway was so long he built Caravansaries or Roadside inns for the weary traveller and his animal to rest and relax before moving towards his destination. The Caravansaries or Dhabha’s as we now call them provided not only much needed rest but also shelter and more importantly food. India has come a long way since the days of the Mughal Empire and the British Raj, but we still have the tradition of the Roadside Dhabha’s for the travellers to relax and have a break.

1-IMG_2154These Dhabha’s are quite famous for their awesome food, appalling hygienic standards and sometimes scary staff. I am not sure if any of the roadside Dhabas in India have ever passed any of health inspection tests. But the food is somehow amazing, and a lot of these Dhabha’s have a huge fan following. The earthiness that one can taste in the food cooked by inexperienced and untrained cooks who, put their heart and soul into the food they make with limited resources and even limited ingredients makes the food magical. It is an experience that is unique to India and is thoroughly enjoyed in the company of friends who enjoy their food as much as you do.

1-IMG_2184The recipe I am sharing today is of “Dhabha Dal” which is a very popular dish served in these Dhabha’s. Eaten with hot Rotis it is one of my favorite Dals that I make often especially when I am having guests over. The layer of Butter floating on top of the Dal makes it look delectable and it is worth all the calories that you scared it has.

Here is the recipe (Serves 6)

For the Dal

1/2 cup Chana Dal

1/2 cup split Black Urad dal

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

Salt to taste

For the Tempering

1 tbsp Ghee (No substitute, you can use Butter instead BUT NO OIL)

1 tsp Cumin seeds

2 -3 cloves of chopped Garlic

2 medium sized Tomatoes finely chopped

2 Green Chillies

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

1/2 tsp Asafoetida (Hing)

For the Garnish

1 1/2 tsp Dry Mango powder (Amchur powder) or Chat masala powder

1 tsp Garam masala powder

Freshly chopped Coriander leaves

A small Dollop of Butter to garnish the Dal


Mix both the dals together and wash them well. Keep them aside for 15 minutes, discard the water again and add 2 – 3 cups water.

Boil the Dal with just Salt & turmeric powder till done. I used a pressure cooker and gave around 10 whistles.

Keep the dal aside and heat the Ghee in a pan. Add the Asafoetida, Cumin seeds, chopped Garlic and Green chillies & red chilli powder and cook for 2 – 3 minutes on a slow flame. Now add the Tomatoes and cook till mushy and done.

Transfer the Dal in this pan and bring to a boil.

Garnish with Dry mango powder and Garam masala, lots of freshly chopped Coriander and Butter.

Serve hot with Rotis or Rice.