Indian weddings in general are overwhelming. Sometimes fun, sometimes extremely frustrating. The thing which bothers me is the wastefulness of it. Many things are done based on blind observance of ritual without any semblance of rationality. Nobody knows why but still they get done. The Brahmin priest pretty much has the final say in determining the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’. Of course the parents on either side can chime in, but who’s going to risk their own daughter’s or son’s marriage? In a Hindu Bengali wedding, you are supposed to offer rice, vegetables and fruit to fourteen generations of your forefathers. When my dad asked our family priest of how much rice he should buy, the priest said “one kilogram” for each forefather. Are you kidding? Isn’t it outright robbing? Who among my ancestors had that appetite? Of course, the priest takes it all home anyway after the wedding, so my forefathers would have gone hungry anyway.
Among other nonsensical things in the wedding process, there is something way funnier than the rest and that is the pointy Bengali groom hat or topor. It’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen a human being wearing. No one looks good in it. It’s one size fits all in theory and in reality one size fits none. It’s annoying, period. Thank goodness I wasn’t supposed to wear any such funny thing. That hat should be eliminated from the whole wedding process. I am sure there are people who would love it, but sorry, stay away from me. I severely doubt your fashion sense (I am not a fashion icon but you don’t have to be one to dislike that hat – my husband, the single most unfashionable man I know, hates it even more than me).
BUT, not all things are bad in a Bengali wedding. When it comes to food, we are the best. No argument please. We Bengalis can beat anyone. If you ask me, I love the lunch menu more than the dinner menu…almost always. The dinner kind of gets iffy sometimes. With lachcha paratha (layered flatbread) and Kashmiri dum aloo paired with pathar mangsho and tomato chutney, I get all confused. During lunch it’s all pure Bengali…to be precise it’s delicious. The bhaja muger daal with lomba begun bhaja (moong lentils and fried eggplant), machher jhol (fish curry), chatni, papor (pappadam), mishti doi (sweet yougurt)…pure bliss. I am drooling. The memories are gradually fading but I don’t want them to fade away completely. A staple on the menu of the many biye baari (wedding ceremonies) that I’ve gone to, (believe it or not, including my own), this bhaja moong daal is something which I’ll cherish forever.
Ginger: around 1” piece
Green chilies: 2-3 nos.
Turmeric: ½ tsp.
Sugar: ½ tsp.
Salt to taste
Cumin seeds: ½ tsp.
Bay leaves: 2 small
Whole dry red chilies: 2 nos.
- Roast the lentils in a heavy bottom pan on medium low heat. Stir very frequently. Try not to burn the lentils. It takes a little bit of patience but well worth it. Roast it until the lentils change to a darker shade and release a nice aroma of roasted lentils.
- Cool and wash with two-three changes of water.
- Boil 1 ½ cups of water in a pot. Once the water starts boiling, add the washed daal. Bring to a boil and lower the flame to medium. Add turmeric.
- Take the white foamy stuff off as it starts coming to the top of the boiling daal.
- You can either chop the ginger fine or grind it to a paste. Add the ginger to the daal when it’s half cooked.
- Stir the daal either with a wooden lentil stirrer (daaler kNata) or any other spoon. Do not make it a mush. You should be able to see the grain a little bit. I do not like thick mushy daal.
- Add the green sugar and salt to taste once the daal is completely done.
- In a separate pan, heat up the ghee (preferred) or any other oil and add the jeera/cumin seeds. Let them sizzle a little bit and then add the bay leaves and red chilies. Let them release the aroma and darken a little bit.
- Immediately add the seasoning to the boiling daal and cover the pot. Turn off the heat as well.
- Uncover right before serving and mix the seasoning well with the daal.
Note: You can pressure cook the daal if you want. I don’t because I cannot control the consistency of the lentils. It always ends up being too cooked. It’s my limitation but if you can control it, go ahead and cook it in whichever way is convenient for you.
Adjust the water according to your liking. Some people like it very thick, some light, so it’s up to you. I like it medium thick for mung daal.