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Summer Special: Tok Dal With Alu Sheddo

May 02, 2022 16:49 IST

Pardon the alliteration, but the cerebrum ceases to be creative (there you go, another alliteration) when the heat and dust of an Indian summer is upon us. Summer means dead or shriveled vegetables at sky-high prices.

India's retail inflation likely sped up to a 16-month high of 6.35 per cent in March, partly due to a sustained rise in food prices. Summer also means minimum time spent slaving in the kitchen and using produce that is seasonal which means, light on the pocket. For instance, mangoes.

Tok (pronounced 'talk') means sour. Tok Dal is home-style red lentils cooked with raw green mangoes. Masoor dal is believed to have the highest protein content among all lentils.

In pre-Bengal renaissance times, widows who were forced to observe a strictly vegetarian diet, were not allowed to eat it. Less protein, early death.

The masoor dal that you get in West Bengal is whole masoor; everywhere else we get split masoor dal. But be that as it may, masoor dal is the go-to dal for Bengalis. Not moong, not toor, not chana, nor urad.

Across India, dal-chawal or rajma-chawal or sambar-rice are staples of comfort food.

Ditto with Bengal, which is where this recipe is from, except that Bengalis never ever eat only dal and rice. The concept of dal-chawal in isolation does not exist. It is always, irrespective of economic or social strata, eaten with an accompaniment.

It can be alu bhaja (crispy fried potatoes) or alu sheddo (boiled potatoes, mashing is implied) or deem sheddo (boiled eggs) or maybe fried fish or even bhindi bhaja (fried bhindi). The accompaniment in this recipe is alu sheddo or mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes is an accompaniment with beef (dare we use the word) roast or stuffed turkey and stars in the British favourite, Bangers and Mash. But they add milk and tonnes of butter to the potatoes.

We add mustard oil, not butter, and never milk. The dal-bhat-alu sheddo combination is a humble, easy to cook, quick meal but pure gold for the palate.


Photograph: Kind courtesy Swarupa Dutt

Tok Dal

Serves: 3-4



How to eat: Mix the dal with the rice and with each mouthful take some alu sheddo.

Don't mix the dal, rice and alu sheddo together on the plate.

Alu Sheddo or Mashed Potatoes

Serves: 3-4



Note: You can replace the green chillies with 3 dried red chillies, but then chop the onions finely lengthwise. All the other ingredients will remain the same.

Those on a diabetic, Jain or low-carb diet may opt to eat Tok Dal with fried bhindi or deem sheddo (boiled eggs mashed and seasoned with chopped green chillies) as an accompaniment.