Tetor Daal – daal, as we all know, is Indian lentil stew and teto refers to bitter gourd. This light lentil stew with a hint of bitter taste is a quintessential Bengali dish, most commonly prepared during summer months. Bitter gourd is known to cleanse your palate and soothe your tummy, which makes this stew ideal for a detox diet. Typically, bottle gourd is also cooked along with the lentil to make the stew more filling. Also, the sweet taste of bottle gourd balances the bitterness of the stew. But, I wanted to keep tetor daal light and so, I used just yellow mung and kept it very mildly spiced.
The first course of a Bengali meal often starts with something bitter. It cleans your taste buds and prepares you for the elaborate meal that follows. This ritual is followed strictly, especially in summer, because adding a little bitter in your daily menu also relaxes your belly. Two common bitter elements that are used a lot are the leaves of neem tree and bitter gourd. None of them were my favorite as a kid but we had to eat it. Ma was very strict with the rule. So, mostly I used to just make a rice ball, hide couple pieces of fried bitter gourd in it and gulp it down in a rush.
Funny how your taste bud changes along with the body changes. When I was pregnant with Avyan, I started to crave bitter gourd. I couldn’t believe myself when I was packing a few bitter gourds from the market. Crispy fried with warm steamed rice, it felt like candy to me. I ate it on repeat for several months. Of course, the craving is no longer there but now, I don’t dislike it anymore. Rather, I enjoy eating it.
Tetor Daal tastes best with warm steamed white rice, paired with some crispy fried fritters. But because I kept the consistency of daal so light, it was great as a soup too.
- 2 bitter gourds
- ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup yellow mung beans
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 dry red chilies
- Fresh lemon juice
- Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
- Trim the end of the bitter gourds and slice it very thin. Place the slices in a bowl and sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Mix it all together and keep aside for 30 minutes.
- Warm the mung beans in several changes of water and then, let it soak for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, strain the soaked lentils and add it to a pan along with the water and rest of the salt. Place the pan in high heat and bring the water to a boil. Then, bring down the heat to medium and let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the lentils cook, fry the bitter gourds. Place a pan on medium high heat and pour 1 tablespoon of oil. Once the oil heats up, layer the slices and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the slices crisp up and turn golden brown in color. Keep the fried bitter gourd aside once done.
- Once the lentils are boiled and the bitter gourd is fried, you can make the daal.
- Place a skillet or a saucepan on medium high heat and pour 1 teaspoon of oil. When the oil heats up, scatter the cumin seeds, grated ginger and the dry red chili. Let it cook for a few seconds and then, drop rest of the turmeric powder. Give it a stir, drop the boiled lentil and the fried bitter gourds. Give it another stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Check salt and add any, if required. If you want the daal consistency to be thinner, add more water and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Squeeze fresh lemon juice, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve warm.