A snack or side dish made of chana dal (Bengal gram) that capitalizes on this dal’s nutty taste. Sookhi chana dal needs very few ingredients and is easy enough to be put together by a kitchen newbie. Those who rely on instant noodles or packaged bhujiya for snack-time with the excuse "I don’t know how to cook" – prepare to shed that line!
You can play "guess the secret ingredient" with this mooli chutney (white radish chutney) recipe. When cooked and blended with other ingredients, white radish sheds its sharp sting, taking on a gentle pungency instead. The end result is an exotically flavorful chutney.
Chana dal has a rich texture and a hint of sweetness in its taste when compared to other yellow dals such as moong or toor. These qualities make chana dal the perfect pairing choice with green leafy vegetables, especially greens that lean towards bitter. For those who would not touch fenugreek chutney or chaulai saag, a smart alternate to get their dose of greens is by "hiding" the leaves in chana dal.
Confession time: I had to Google "nenua in English" for this post. I learnt that the vegetable is called sponge gourd: the name comes from the fact that the fibrous core of the gourd is dried and used as a sponge/loofah. Not surprisingly, the Latin name of sponge gourd is Luffa cylindra.
Be that as it may, it feels stilted to call the very Bihari nenua "sponge gourd" especially since I’m blogging about a very Bihari recipe. I’ll continue calling it nenua in this post.
Gourds pair well with dal, as in the lovely ridge gourd moong dal. Nenua chana is another case in point. This is a very uncomplicated recipe with few ingredients, the perfect kind for a new cook to test their skills on.
In my pre-teen years, food mentions in books would send my senses into overdrive visualizing them. The less familiar the food, the more vivid the imagined details. "Hot buttered scones", said Enid Blyton, and I pictured mildly sweet nimki-like snack twisted into conical shape, dripping with melted butter. "Lemonade" to my mind was a cross between nimbu pani and Limca. "Red radishes" were slender, graceful and blood red, more alluring than the humble white we had access to.
Reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake, I realised I am not much changed today. Ashima makes "thick channa dal with swollen brown raisins" for her party. What can that be like? Now I don’t just imagine, I cook my interpretation of it :)