Chana Dal with Raisins

11 Jul

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 :)

After a few trials and errors, I’ve settled on this recipe of chana dal with raisins. Hope you enjoy my take on it. 

You Need:

  • Chana Dal with Raisins Chana dal* (Bengal gram) – 1 cup
  • Turmeric powder – a pinch
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon (adjust to taste)
  • Jaggery – 1/2 teaspoon (adjust to taste)
  • Raisins – 1/3 cup
  • Green chili – 1
  • Cumin powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Dry red chili – 1
  • Cardamom – 2 pods
  • Cinnamon – 1-inch stick
  • Cloves – 2
  • Nigella seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Ghee – 1 teaspoon
  • Mustard oil – 2 teaspoons
  • Coriander leaves – for garnishing

How To Make Chana Dal with Raisins:

Soak chana dal in 3 cups of water, for five hours or more.

Drain, wash and cook the dal in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and turmeric powder. Cook till one whistle on high flame, then another four whistles on low flame. Let the pressure release naturally. [If boiling chana dal without a pressure cooker, use a deep open pan with a lot more water, and cook the dal till al dente.]

Chana Dal with Raisins - Ingredients

In the picture above: Boiled chana dal, cumin powder, nigella seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamon and cloves, raisins, dry red chili, green chili.

When done, the chana dal pieces should be soft but retain their shape. Drain most of the water from the dal [don’t throw it away, use it for making rasam or kneading chapati dough]. Add raisins to the pot of boiled dal while you prepare for the next step – adding raisins to the hot dal makes them absorb the liquid, homogenize in taste and swell up.

Chop green chili finely. Pound dry red chili into small pieces.

Heat two teaspoons of mustard oil in a kadhai/wok till smoking point. Set the heat to low and add nigella seeds, cloves, whole cardamom pods, dry red chili pieces. As soon as the red chili pieces turn color (within 10 seconds), add chopped green chilies.

Follow immediately after with cumin powder, boiled chana dal and raisins. Add salt and jaggery to taste. Stir gently to coat chana dal with all the spices. Cook covered on low flame for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Before serving, add some pure ghee to the dal and sprinkle chopped coriander leaves. Chana dal with raisins goes well with pooris and aloo curry.

Chana Dal with Raisins


Tadka variations: include a bay leaf along with the cloves and cardamom; replace nigella seeds with panch phoron.

*Many recipes online describe chana dal as split pigeon peas. They look alike but they are NOT the same! Split pigeon peas is toor dal. Chana dal is Bengal gram, closer in taste to chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

8 Responses to “Chana Dal with Raisins”

  1. Vishakha July 11, 2012 at 11:23 PM #

    Love the intro paragraph! It’s so much fun to read, imagine and finally put ur imaginations to something finite.. what better way to express it than cooking!:) Your chana dal recipe looks good. I think some Bongs like to add coconut strips in chana dal. I never had it at home like that but I’ve had it at my in-laws and heard my husband talk about it many times. I don’t like raisins but my 3-yr old is the biggest raisin lover i have ever met. He’ll surely love some in his Dal :)

    • S July 12, 2012 at 12:09 AM #

      Hi Vishakha,

      Coconut strips will be a nice addition. I’m with your 3-yr old in loving raisins :) I can happily go up to a 40:60 ratio of raisins and chana dal in this recipe.

  2. Tadka Pasta July 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM #

    How lovely, to bring that taste from your imagination to your tongue. This chana mom used to make a similar one, no raisins but with coconut. Would love the sweetness raisins would add but my l’il miss is a raisin hater :)))

    • S July 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM #

      Coconut and chana dal sound like a famous pair! Should try them together the next time :)

  3. Anjana July 17, 2012 at 10:11 AM #

    Daal looks delicious..slightly different from the way I cook.loved the addition of coconut.
    Loved your lovely and homely blog!

    • S July 17, 2012 at 10:32 AM #

      Thanks Anjana. Will look for your chana dal recipe on your blog.

  4. A August 11, 2012 at 12:31 AM #

    I hesitated at the amount of raisins required and eventually added way less – what a mistake. Whereas the dish was still excellent, I can see how it would have benefited from extra raisins. I imagined it would be overwhelmingly sweet, but in fact the raisins, when soaked, are more juicy than sweet and balance out the dryness of chana dal.

    • S August 11, 2012 at 8:39 AM #

      Welcome here A. I know what you mean…I hesitate to add too much sweet to dals and curries too, but sometimes the dish calls for it. I had a similar experience with jaggery in this recipe for eggplant in poppy seed sauce.

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