I waved goodbye to my family at the airport. They were heading back to the U.S after our short vacation in India from Bangalore. I was leaving to Pune for a two week Ayurvedic treatment and I wasn’t really looking forward to it. Well, I knew it was going to make me feel better and I could get back home rejuvenated and recharged. Nevertheless, I didn’t quite like the fact that I had to be by myself during a period of absolutely no fun and never ending restrictions. If you’ve gone through an Ayurvedic treatment or the likes, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
I stayed at a hotel as the clinic didn’t have a facility to provide residential treatment. The most difficult part about it was to find food that complied with the million diet restrictions that came with the treatment. The best part however was, you had your own space and your activities were not guarded :). I did not know if that meant anything during a medical treatment, but I wanted to take advantage of it and appease the travel enthusiast in me to the extent possible.
So, the rituals started. It wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be until I hit the part that I was most apprehensive about. Yes, FOOD! Some of you may know that Ayurvedic diet is based on very stringent guidelines, and they had made it even tighter for me as I had to depend on restaurants for every meal of the day. Dhal (lentils), chawal (rice) and ghee (brown butter) were the only items they allowed me to eat throughout the duration of the treatment. That sounded like a whole lot of fun for a person who thinks and dreams about food all through the day. Doesn’t it?
The hotel that I stayed at had a nice restaurant attached to it. I had made arrangements with them to provide me with the food I needed. The attendant that handled the room service calls soon became very familiar with the meal request that came from room number 104. The moment he recognized my voice, he’d go ‘half portion of dhal and chawal, with ghee and no tomatoes, is that right madam?’. Sigh, that’s exactly what I ate for 11 consecutive days – 22 meals in a row. One full portion was too much for me and I had requested them to give me half a portion made fresh every time. If you are wondering why only 22 meals, I had only chai(tea) for breakfast. The restaurant folks would have thought that I was perhaps an alien who wasn’t exposed to anything better than dhal, chawal and tea. My bad 😦 !
Of course, I was soon tired and frustrated of eating the same damn thing meal after meal. But I had no options, I had to keep going and cruise along the same boring course with absolutely no possibility of detours even minimally. If there was one thing that helped me to cling on to this mundane and monotonous regimen, it was the flavor and taste of the dhal. It was loaded with spices (ginger, garlic, cumin, hing and garam masala) and tasted heavenly. The dollop of ghee added on top it made it irresistible.
It has been a few months since I came back home and I continue to embrace the Ayurvedic way of living. I know what you’re thinking. No, no, no, I’m not eating only dhal and rice anymore 🙂 . I do have a much wider set of options to eat and they keep me happy and contented. But this dhal is unforgettable, for it’s taste and flavor and most importantly the number of consecutive times I’ve had it 🙂
Now you know why I christened it ‘Pune Dhal’. For all you know it may just be a very simple dhal made in every household, but I had to capture the memory it has given me and share it with you.
Prep Time : 10 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Serves : 2-4
1/4 cup toor dhal
1/4 cup moong dhal
1/2 tsp turmeric, divided
1 tsp garam masala
1 pinch hing
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tbsp finely chopped green chilies
1 tbsp oil
chopped cilantro for garnish
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chilies
1 spring curry leaves
1 tbsp ghee
Add half of the turmeric to the dhals and pressure cook until soft and mushy. Keep aside.
In a soup pan/deep skillet, heat oil, add onions, and saute until cooked. Add all the spices (hing, remaining turmeric, green chilies, garam masala, ginger, and garlic), turmeric, and cook until the raw smell of the spices go away. Mash the cooked dhal well and add it to the pan. Add salt and water (as desired),mix well, and bring it to a boil.
To season, heat ghee in another small pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and allow them to splutter. Add red chilies and curry leaves and saute for a minute. Pour on top of the dhal.
Sprinkle chopped cilantro for garnish. Serve warm with roti or hot steamed rice.
If you’d like to add tomatoes, add half a cup of them and pressure cook with the dhal.