Dal Chawal Palita is a traditional Bohri cuisine recipe. It is a lentil and rice casserole served with a gram flour gravy on the side. It is made for dinner on the last day of Ramadan for it’s ease in making, serving, and eating.
Today is the day before Eid and traditionally in every Bohri household, dinner tonight is dal chawal palita. The story goes that in the evening before Eid, all the women of the house put mehandi (henna) on their hands to celebrate Eid the next day. So they can’t cook in the evening and dinner is usually prepared in the morning itself. Also since they have henna on their hands, the men feed the women by their hands.
The three parts – Dal, Chawal and Palita
While there are three main components to the dish, it still is an easy recipe. In the final dish all three – dal, chawal, and palita are mixed together and eaten in spoonfuls.
- Dal is toor (arhar or yellow pigeon peas lentil) dal, soaked and then cooked just so that it is soft but still keeps it’s shape.
- Chawal is Basmati rice, which is first undercooked a little (like ¾th done). Then the rice and cooked toor dal are layered, sprinkled with fried onions, closed and put into the oven.
- The palita (also called palida or sarki) is the besan/gram flour based gravy.
While we have kadhi as a besan curry in many Indian cuisines, I had palita for the first time after I married into a Bohri family. I loved it! I wonder why it is not made more often :-D. It is a sour runny soup. Kokam is added for sourness but you can also use amchoor (dry mango) or lemon juice if neither is available.
The Dawoodi Bohra cuisine is very unique in variety and the presentation of food. On special occasions the entire family sits around a huge thaal and eats from one plate. Even after 11 years of being part of the vibrant Bohri community I am as fascinated as I was when I first sat in the thaal during one of my wedding functions. Now our world is moving towards a new direction with words like “social distancing” being a part of our day-to-day vocabulary. Don’t know how these traditions of an entire community sitting and eating from one plate, will continue.
Dal Chawal Palita is my favorite vegetarian Bohri cuisine food. Spicy and tangy; warm and comforting. It is very simple to cook, but takes time as it needs the lentil, rice and palita to be cooked separately. But they can all be done simultaneously and thus it is faster if there are multiple burners.
Dal Chawal Palita (Dal Chawal Palidu)
Ingredients (1cup = 240ml; 1tbsp = 15ml; 1tsp = 5ml)
for the Dal – Chawal (lentil rice)
- 1 cup Basmati Rice
- ⅓ cup Toor Dal arhar/ yellow split pigeon peas lentil
- ¼ cup dried Deep Fried crispy Onions
for the palita
- 4 tbsp Oil
- 1 medium Onion chopped
- 1 tbsp Ginger-Garlic paste
- 1 Green Chili finely chopped
- 4 tbsp Besan Gram Flour
- 2 tsp Coriander powder
- 1 tsp Red Chili powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 medium Tomato chopped
- 4-5 pieces Kokum or Dried Amchoor
- Lemon juice and Lemon pickle optional, to serve alongside
Dal chawal (lentil rice) preparation
- Wash and soak the rice and toor dal separately for about 15-20 minutes.
- In a deep pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil, drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Add ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp oil. Mix well and let it cook on medium heat till the rice is just about cooked and there is still some water left.
- In a separate pot, heat 1 tsp oil, add the soaked and drained dal.
- Add ¼ tsp turmeric and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 1 cup water and let it cook on medium flame till the dal is cooked and there is no water. The water added is just enough so that the dal is cooked dry, and not like a regular lentil preparation where it has a lot of water. The dal should not be mushy. If there is excess water drain the dal. You can use this water in cooking palita.
- In a broader pot, layer the rice, dal and sprinkle dried deep fried onions on top. Put the pot on low heat until the rice is cooked through. You can also keep it in the oven on the lowest temperature setting to slowly cook and stay warm.
- In a pressure cooker, heat 3 tbsp oil. Once the oil is hot, add chopped onions, chilies and ginger garlic paste. Sauté for 5 mins until the onions start to turn soft.
- Mix in besan (gram flour) and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder and salt. Mix well and after about a minute add about 3 cups of water. The palita is very runny, almost soup like consistency
- Add the chopped tomatoes and kokum/dried amchoor pieces. Close the cooker and pressure cook on high for 2 whistles. Reduce the flame and let it cook on low for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, remove the pressure cooker from heat and let it stand till all the steam has escaped on its own.
- Lightly mix the dal chawal and dried onions and serve with palita on the side.
- Serve yourself first some dal-chawal and then add palita on top. Mix it all up. Add a little lemon juice and/or lemon pickle to taste.
I used to think most Muslim cuisines are largely meat based but there are so many amazing vegetarian dishes in Bohri cuisine. Some of my favorite ones are:
- Dal kanda
- Kanda Besan
- Patli Dal
- Khata (it is similar to Punjabi Kadhi but much thicker and with characteristically flat and thin pakodi)
- Dal Chawal Palita
- Chana Batata curry (Black chickpeas and potato curry)
- Torai sarki (Ridge gourd cooked in a gram flour gravy)
I do have some of vegetarian Bohri recipes on blog but many are still to be written and I am totally on it!
Connect with Me
Here’s an interesting fact about Bohra cuisine: When you sit in the big community plate (thaal), the first food in the mouth is just a pinch of plain salt. I learned much later that it is to clear the palate and activate the taste buds, preparing one for the frenzy of culinary attack that follows.
I love learning such hidden gems about different cuisines! If you know some interesting facts about food traditions, please do share! If you make this recipe, I would love to know.
Would love to start a conversation, share recipes, cooking experiences and food stories from India and around the world.