I hung up Tibetian flags yesterday, remembering a trip to the Uttarakhand region of India. Then I came across a rustic lentil dish from the area, called Chainsoo, on the social media feed of author Shikha Malaviya and it made me want to recreate the flavors in my home.
Chainsoo comes from the Garhwal/ Gadhwal/ Uttarakhand region of India, and is perfect for times when resources are limited. Garhwal/ Gadhwal/ Uttarakhand region of India is mountainous, at the base of the Himalayas.
In this mountainous terrain, with colder winters than in the plains below, the people of Garhwal/ Gadhwal/ Uttarakhand eat simple and nutritious foods characterized by a preference of whole grains and spices. The dishes have no frills, and in their simplicity, offer us a great perspective on how cuisines not only reflect the people they feed, but also how simple and quick can be delicious. The dish requires nearly no pre-planning, and can be made with a simply stocked pantry as well. I’ve made a few modifications along the way, to suit my own taste preferences.
A note about pairing: Since this is such a ‘dense’ dish it can be heavy on the stomach, it is best served with a dollop of freshly churned butter, and paired with sautéed leafy greens, and steaming basmati rice (this is also a classic pairing). Alternately, slices from a fresh loaf of Italian bread, or soft fulka roti – are just as well suited.
Chainsoo: Quick Roasted Black Urad Daal Stew
1 cup whole black urad daal (see pre-prep note)
1 tsp cooking oil (mustard oil is a traditional choice)
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ tsp asafetida
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¾ tsp coriander-cumin powder
½-1 tsp cayenne powder, to taste
2 cups water, or more as needed
½ tbsp lemon juice, optional
2 tbsp heavy cream, optional
¼ tsp Kasuri Methi/ dried fenugreek leaves, optional
Salt, to taste
In a heavy bottom pan, dry roast the whole black urad daal, until it is lightly fragrant. Set aside in a shallow bowl or plate to cool down. Once cooled, coarsely grind it, and set aside until ready to use.
In the empty heavy bottom pan, warm the cooking oil. Add whole cumin seeds and garlic and allow this to sizzle for 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant. Add the asafetida, turmeric powder, cumin-coriander powder, and cayenne powder, and quickly add the two cups of water. Slowly incorporate the coarsely ground urad daal and stir to prevent it from forming lumps. Allow this to cook for 20 minutes on medium high with frequent stirring to prevent the daal from lumping, or settling to the bottom. Add the optional lemon juice, heavy cream, and kasuri methi to the hot daal, and stir in. Add salt to taste, stir to incorporate. Serve warm with a dollop of butter.