Bhavna shares the recipe for Dal Pakwan from the town of Ulhasnagar — a typical Sindhi breakfast that is as popular in street-side shacks as it is in Sindhi homes.
Dal Pakwan (crisp, deep fried bread with lentil) was a very popular breakfast dish that I grew up eating in Ulhasnagar. Ulhasnagar is a small satellite town on the outskirts of Mumbai, established to house refugees from Sindh who moved to India after the partition. The Sindhis are known for their love of food, and while it is still a lesser-known cuisine, Sindhi food has many hearty gems.
A small shack near our house served the best Dal Pakwan in Ulhasnagar. And when my aunts visited us over the summer, it was Dal Pakwan for breakfast almost every day!
My cousins and I would wake up early, eager for the short trek to our pakwan shack. The dal would be cooking in huge cauldrons, as the pakwans puffed up in large woks filled with hot oil. We'd wait in line to have the crisp pakwans packed in newspaper, and our tiffins filled to the brim with dal. Then we'd walk home gingerly, careful to not spill a drop.
When we got home, the table was ready with an assortment of spicy & sweet chutneys, and raw onion. Then we'd sit down to feast, using the crisp pakwans as a spoon to scoop up the hot dal.
Dal Pakwan Recipe
For the dal
1½ cup chana dal
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, pureed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tsp red chilli powde
2 tsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste
For the pakwan
3 cups plain flour or maida
Water to knead the dough
1 tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
Vegetable oil, to deep fry
Salt to taste
To make the dal
Soak the dal in water for at least 30 minutes.
Wash the dal under running water and put it in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water, green chilli, salt and half the quantity of turmeric.
Cook for 2- 3 whistles and turn off the heat.
Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds and onion.
Saute till the onions are almost brown.
Next add the tomato puree and cook for a few minutes.
Add the red chilii powder, remaining turmeric powder and salt.
Add in the dal and let it cook on a low flame for 10 minutes before removing from the heat and serving with fresh coriander for garnish.
To make the pakwan
In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together
Slowly add a little water to knead the dough.
The dough should not be as hard as the dough for pooris, nor as soft that for chapattis.
Let the dough rest for at least 15 minutes.
Use a rolling pin to shape into small rounds.
Heat oil in a pan, and deep fry the flatbreads till the puff up.
Transfer to a paper towel to remove excess oil before serving.
Condiments to serve with Dal Pakwan
Freshly chopped coriander
Green coriander chutney (Fresh coriander ground to a paste, along with water, salt, half an onion, green chillies, juice of 1 lemon and 2 cloves of garlic)
Tamarind Chutney (a ball of tamarind soaked in half a cup of hot water, and then squeezed out)
Bhavna Kalra is a girl from Mumbai, now settled in Sydney, who missed India and feeds her soul with memories & food from a place she once called home. She is the blogger behind the hugely successful Just a Girl from Mumbai.
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