My thali comes together easily. I start with shrikhand. Yogurt needs a couple of hours to drain off wheybefore it is whipped together with sugar and saffron. I roast eggplants to make bhareet, a cold mash made with chilies and coconut milk. Butternut squash cubes are toasted with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Zucchini and patrel cook till they are mushy. Cauliflower simmers in coconut milk. Thinly slivered, generously spiced, okra are shallow-fried till crisp. Dal, flavored with cumin seeds and curry leaves, bubbles gently. Glenn becomes an expert poori fryer. The kitchen is filled with the enticing aroma of cooked basmati rice. The blender whirs noisily as I grind coconut and cilantro chutney. I rinse the blender and start a salad I used to make a long time ago.
I first ate green mango salad when I was sixteen. A religious function at a friends house results in my lifelong romance with this deceptively simple salad. It is crunchy, tart, sweet and salty. All in one bite! The bite comes from uncooked Bengal Gram lentils. Chana dal, as it is called, is usually boiled to make a creamy curry. In this recipe chana dal needs a long soak in water and a quick pulse in a blender or processor. Grated green mango, flaked coconut, cilantro and a bunch of spices give the salad a definite boost in flavor. A short stint in the fridge lets ingredients marry well.
GREEN MANGO AND DAL SALAD
3/4 cup Bengal Gram Dal
2 cups Water
1 raw Green Mango
1/4 cup fresh grated Coconut
1/4 cup Cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 teaspoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Canola oil
1/2 teaspoon Mustard seeds
3 Curry Leaves
Wash dal in several changes of water. Soak dal in water for 4 hours.
Drain water and pulse dal roughly in a blender or food processor for 30 seconds.
Scrape pulsed dal into a bowl.
Add coconut to dal.
Chop cilantro finely and add to bowl.
Season salad with salt and sugar.
Sliver curry leaves.
Heat canola oil in a small cast iron pan.
When it shimmers, add mustard seeds and sliced curry leaves. Wait a few seconds as they splutter and then pour contents of pan onto dal.
Mix well and chill the salad before serving.
Celebrations are auspicious occasions, perfect moments to gather friends at my table. Col, Keith, Roy, Mary Lou are familiar faces on thali days. Vimal and Noel grace my table for the first time. Assembling the thalis is a lengthy affair. Demolishing the contents are a snap. The meal proceeds convivially as my guests enjoy the repast. Everyone remarks on their favorites. Noel is the only person who has tasted the mango salad before. It takes him back to Belgaum days. A smattering of salad remains. All he needs is a gentle nudge.. And it's gone!