Did you read my post on the Amchi Radish Raita that my Amma had made for me during a school picnic once as part of the Chitrapur Saraswat series? I had written that for the extremely interesting India Food Network, which has been doling out some excellent content on regional Indian food.
This month, I wrote another post for them on the quintessential Amchi dish – the simple Dali Thoy. A preparation of tuvar dal with a tempering (tadka/phanna) that infuses it with flavour found in any typical CSB/GSB household and wedding. This one brought up loads of memories of my home in Salalah, my father and a family life that has long been forgotten.
Here’s an excerpt. For the full story and recipe, visit the post here.
Friday mornings for me as a kid raised in the Gulf were as exciting as could be. It was the weekend – and in my opinion (and the rest of my generation’s) – the one day we could sleep in late. But, unfortunately, my parents didn’t hold the same beliefs and waking us up on weekends was quite an ordeal. My motivation was the 12 p.m. Khana Khazana show that my father and I would religiously watch every Friday. We would be hooked to the TV watching Sanjeev Kapoor casually chopping up vegetables, stirring a thing or two in the pan and then finally garnishing the dish with flair. And then, my hands would work as I would take down the recipe of whatever he had made as fast as I could with my parents adding in whatever I would miss out. Many a delicious experiment of mine has been the result of these weekend ‘ly’ shows that I would watch with my father.
I’ve always felt that my passion for cooking came from him – my mother is a brilliant cook, no doubt, (most of my initial knowledge of baking, cooking, ingredients and flavor combinations have come from her) but it isn’t her passion. My father, on the other hand, made the most amazing dosas, Chinese food, a brilliant coconut chutney that still reminds me of school mornings, French toast and the best curd ever! In our house, he was also the ‘phanna’ master. ‘Phanna’ in Konkani is tempering and, in my opinion, the basis of any dish. My father’s ‘phanna’ for the Dali Thoy – a quintessential amchi dish that will be found in any amchi house on a regular day – was epic.
Dali Thoy is a simple preparation of tuvar dal with a deceivingly simple tempering that becomes the defining flavor of the dish. Whenever possible, the dal would be prepared beforehand and all my father was needed for was the tempering. The standing joke in the house was that the dali thoy alone was responsible for the highest use of mustard seeds in the house!
I would stand beside my dad, keenly watching him and observing his actions because I desperately wanted to replicate what he did. It is no rocket science – the right phanna is about the temperature of the oil and the proportion and sequence of ingredients used. The right steps and ingredients together bring about a heady, almost sweet aroma that fills the kitchen and infuses into the dal. After all, the aroma is the key of any tempering. To, this day, whenever I visit my mum, I am responsible for the tempering for the dal, because beyond taste, that is a reminder of a time long gone….