A delicious food memory from the Konkani home of my childhood is Dalitoy, a simple and ultra-easy dal preparation. It is a rather straightforward dish, requiring none of the ingredient-grinding and masala-making that gives other dals their complex flavors and identities. All you need for the dalitoy, once you’ve cooked up the dal itself or the lentils, is a handful of seasonings you can pull out of the pantry: mustard, dry red chillies, asafetida or hing, and some salt. And, if you had them around, curry leaves, coriander leaves and some shreds of coconut.
As you can imagine then, a dalitoy is a harried cook’s best friend. But it was a friend I’d forgotten until last month when a reader wrote in asking for a recipe. The memories flooded back, and so did a really strong craving for this perfectly spare but sumptuous dish.
Dalitoy is perfect with plain boiled white rice, but because I had a little more time on my hands to try something more interesting (not to mention a bunch of methi leaves crying to be used up), I served it up with a Rice Pilaf with Fenugreek and Sundried Tomatoes. I’ll share that recipe next, but meanwhile here’s the Dalitoy.
1 cup toovar dal, cover with water, add 1/2 tsp turmeric, and cook until the lentils are quite mushy
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 red chillies
1 tsp vegetable oil, like canola
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
2 tbsp coconut shreds (optional)
10 curry leaves (optional)
Juice of a lemon
Salt to taste
Heat the oil, add mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and red chillies. Stir fry for a couple of seconds.
Add the cooked dal and enough water to get a fairly watery consistency. A dalitoy is typically quite thin, although you could make it thicker if you prefer it.
Bring the dal to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer another 10 minutes.
Add the coconut shreds and salt to taste.
Turn off the heat. Garnish with some fresh coriander, if you like.