Dhokar Dalna

This is a delicious Bengali recipe, and great for serving to guests, as it is also very appealing to the eye.  The name, however, is somewhat un-translatable…  ‘Dhokar’, I have been told, means ‘to cheat’, and ‘dalna’ is a kind of liquid gravy.  If anyone knows why it has such a name, I would be happy to hear from you.  I have seen it translated as ‘lentil cakes in tomato sauce’, but, unfortunately, that also does not help, because there are actually no lentils in it.  So lets just call it Dhokar Dalna, and enjoy eating it!

(Chana dal is a kind of yellow-coloured pulse, which can be found in most Indian shops.  It is actually made from split, skinned black chickpeas, but doe not chanalook at all like chickpeas.  You mght be able to make it with normal chickpeas, but I have never tried…  so I can’t promise it will work.)


-1 1/2 cups chana dal, soaked for 6 – 8 hours (or overnight)

-1 or 2 green chillies

-1 oe 2 teaspoons grates fresh ginger

-1 teaspoon salt

-1 teaspoon cumin seeds

-1 teaspoon oil, plus oil for deep frying


  1. Add the chana dal, chillies, ginger and salt in a blender.  Add a little water (1/2 cup or less should be enough), so that you can blend the dal easily.  Blend into a smooth paste.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan, and add the cumin seeds, until they pop.  Add the chana dal paste, and lower the heat.  Cook, stirring continuosly, until it becomes thick and you cannot stir anymore.  It will be all stuck together.  Don’t worry if some sticks to the pan (actually, this will defiantely happen), just be careful not to burn it.
  3. Spread the thickened paste into a tray, compress and make it as smooth as possible on the top.  It should be abround 1cm or 1 1/2 cm thick.   Leave to cool.
  4. Cut into diamond shapes.  (It is really worth making diamonds, not squares.  This is what makes the recipes so aesthetic.)
  5. Heat oil for deep frying, and fry the diamonds until they become slightly golden.  They are now ready to add to the tomato sauce (see below).  Actually, they are also teasty to eat just like this.


-1 or 2 tomatoes, grated into pulp.  (Cut them in half, and grate- this is the fastest way to remove the skin and also the best way to make a smooth tomato sauce).

-1/3 – 1/2 cup yoghurt

-1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

-1 or 2 fresh green chillies

-1 teaspoon cumin seeds

-2 green cardamom pods

-1  clove (optional)

-1 bay leaf

-1/4 teaspoon hing

-1/2 teaspoon turmeric

-3/4 teaspoon sugar

-salt to taste

-1 teaspoon oil


  1. Heat the oil, and add the chilli.  Then add the cumin seeds, cardamom and clove.  When the seeds start to pop, add the hing and bay leaf.  Add the grated tomato, grated ginger, turmeric, sugar and salt.  Fry the tomato until it starts to become dry.  (It is worth cooking it properly, as the taste completely changes).
  2. Add some water (the sauce should be enough so that the chana-dal cakes can float in it.  However, it also should not be over-liquid.)
  3. Add the yoghurt, and boil for a a few minutes.  Then add the chana-dal cakes and boil for 3-5 minutes more.  Serve hot with rice.

NOTE- Pieces of boiled potato are often added to the tomato sauce with the chana-dal cakes.  This is useful if you want to make a larger quantity, but I personally like it better without potato.





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