Do you really think that burnt food can taste good? Let me tell you, it can taste not just good but awesome if you have the right taste buds for it. Last weekend I had guests over for dinner and wanted to make motor daal (split pea lentil soup). Being in a hurry, I forgot to turn off the burner and ended up having a daal which is mushy and thick. Not my kind of daal. It tasted good but I wasn’t happy with the overcooked consistency. To share my disappointment, I called my friend Bonny who always listens to my endless food experiments very patiently. The motor daal I was trying to cook was originally her recipe and I thought that she would definitely empathize with my grief.
While telling her the story of how I managed to mess up the daal, she gave me a brilliant idea. She said “why don’t you make daal pora with it?” My eyes sparkled the moment these very unusual words hit my ears. Immediately I asked for the recipe to salvage my overcooked daal. The moment I hung up the phone, I went to the kitchen. After a while, the daal pora was ready to be served and I was overjoyed to learn something new. This proves that leftovers can do wonders if you know what to do with them. When I asked Bonny about the recipe and if it was a Bangal (people of east Bengal origin, now Bangladesh) or Ghoti (people originally from West bengal) recipe, she said “it must be a Bangal recipe, because who else would cook and eat leftover daal?”. Indeed, Bangals are known for cooking with vegetable peels, roots or otherwise discarded materials like fish heads. They are a community where maximum utilization of resources has been perfected to a high degree.
I was so excited I called my Maa to share the newly discovered delicacy. Hearing the story, she reluctantly said “yes, I know, we used to make it with leftover daal”….what? Why haven’t I seen this ever in my life? She said she had it at her baaper baari (parent’s place). My maternal grandparents were refugees from East Bengal who didn’t have the luxury to throw away the leftovers. We didn’t have that luxury either but somehow it was never cooked in our house.
There is not much to write as far the recipe goes. You take a heavy bottom pot and cook the leftover daal on low-medium flame until it forms dough like consistency. Stir frequently. Do not make it very dry. Take off the flame and add chopped green chili, onion, and mustard oil. Mix well and serve it with hot rice. Mustard oil is a must to get the true Bong taste but you are most welcome to add any other oil. Don’t add any salt as the daal already has salt in it.
Traditionally the daal gets burnt at the bottom a little bit and hence the name (daal pora literally means burnt lentils in Bengali). If you are using a stainless steel or aluminum kadai/pot, you’ll get the burnt texture. I do not have one and had to use my non-stick kadai, which unfortunately does not give the same burnt texture. The brown crust at the bottom will add a nice smoky flavor and a bit of crunch or texture to the daal pora.
While serving, make a lemon-sized ball for each person and serve it with steaming hot rice.