Chanar Dalna is a classic Bengali recipe that you prepare using freshly prepared non-aged cheese at home. The key spice you will use here is Bengali five spices and a few other ground spices. We cook this dish in mustard oil for the subtle, pungent aroma.
Chana is the Bengali word for chenna (fresh paneer). Do not confuse with the hindi word chana for chickpea. Dalna is a Bengali word used for light curries. People also refer the dish to as Chanar Torkari.
It is a very popular dish in every Bengali household, and we always pair it with white rice. You can prepare the same dish with store bought paneer cubes too, however the chenna dumpling does take it to a whole new level.
Chana/Chenna/ Fresh Paneer - Very similar to ricotta cheese, you prepare chenna/chana by curdling whole milk. You strain the curdled milk and leave is aside for a while before you use it to prepare anything sweet like Rasgulla, Chanar payesh, Rasmalai. Or use it to prepare something savory like Paneer paratha.
Preparing Chenna/Chana is very easy but can be a little tricky, and I shared a detailed video to explain to you how to make super soft chenna every time.
Potatoes - Most Bengali dishes calls for potatoes as we are very fond of them.
Onion - We use red onions, but sometimes we make it pure vegetarian by skipping the onion.
Tomato - The gravy is a light tomato based gravy, which you get from adding fresh tomato. If you can add canned tomatoes, the curry will turn too thick. So use fresh tomatoes only.
Whole Spices - We use Bengali five spice in the beginning of cooking to temper the oil and release the aroma. Bay leaves are also used in the beginning, along with Bengali five spice - Panch Phoron.
Ground Spices - Turmeric, Cumin Powder, Coriander powder and chili powder is used to flavor the fresh cheese before frying. It is once again mixed together with water and added later in the cooking.
Flour - A small amount of all purpose flour is added with the chana/chenna to bind it together before frying. If you want gluten free option, skip all purpose flour and add chickpea instead.
Green Chili - Bengali dishes often uses fresh green chili instead of chili powder. It adds a subtle heat and also a refreshing aroma.
Mustard Oil - Most Bengali dishes are prepared in mustard oil, and it adds a lovely flavor. But you can prepare the same dish using your choice of oil too.
All the measurements are mentioned in the recipe card, below.
Steps to prepare Chanar Dalna
- In a bowl add the fresh chenna/chana and add all the dry spices along with salt and flour. Mix it together to incorporate everything. As you mix, knead the chenna/chana granules with your palm to smoothen the texture.
- Make tiny balls of the mixture. You can flatten it a littleor leave it circular in shape.
3. Fry the dumplings in hot mustard oil and then take it off. Remember to drop when the oil is hot, or else the chenna will get stuck at the bottom of the pan. Then take it off once done.
4. To the same oil, fry the potatoes and take it off.
5. Remove some of the oil and leave just 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add panch phoron/ Bengali five spice and bay leaves. It will splatter so be careful.
6. Scatter the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook for a couple of minutes.
7. Add the spice paste and cook for a few minutes until the raw flavor of the spice is gone. Then pour water and bring it to boil.
8. Drop the chenna/chana dumplings and let it simmer for a while. The chenna will soak up all the flavor and turn very soft.
The recipe is very simple as you can see and very comforting with rice. You want to be careful with the chenna/ chana dumplings as these are very delicate and can break apart.
Key Points to keep in mind
Make this dish using fresh chenna/chana. If you grate store bought chenna/chana to make this dish, the dumplings will not turn out soft.
When you fry the chana boda/dumplings/kofta make sure the oil is hot. If you drop these cheese dumplings in cold oil, it will get stuck at the bottom of the pan.
The chana boda/dumplings/kofta are very fragile and soft. So when you add it to the gravy, mix it around gently using a spoon.
Have you tried these Bengali Dishes?
I will not compare chana dalna with malai kofta. Malai kofta is also prepared with grated paneer or fresh chenna, but boiled potatoes are added too. Also, the gravy and spices are very different. Both the dish tastes very different.
Yes! You can prepare the fried chana boda/kofta/dumplings a day in advance and prepare te curry next day.
If you use store bought paneer to grate and make these dumplings, it will not taste soft and pillowy. You have to use soft fresh chenna for the right texture of the dish.
- ½ lb fresh chenna/chana
- 1 (6 oz) Red onion
- 1 (8 oz) Potato
- 1 (6 oz) Tomato
- 2 tablespoon All purpose flour
- 2 Green chili
- ¼ cup Mustard oil
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1.5 teaspoon Salt (As per taste)
- Finely chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Panch phoron/Bengali five spice
- 2 small Bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon Cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon Coriander powder
- ½ tablespoon Chili powder
- ½ tablespoon Turmeric powder
- Peel the potato and slice into bite size cubes. Thinly slice the onion and chop the tomato into bite size cubes.
- In a bowl, add the fresh chenna along with salt to taste, flour, ½ tablespoon cumin powder, ½ tablespoon coriander powder, ¼ tablespoon chili powder and ¼ tablespoon turmeric powder. Mix it around to form a smooth dough.
- Divide the chana/chenna mixture into small dumplings and shape it into tiny balls or flat discs.
- In a heavy bottom pan, pour the oil and once the oil heats up, carefully place the dumplings and let it fry for 1 minute, then flip and fry for 1 more. Take it off the pan once done.
- To the same pan, drop the potato cubes and sprinkle a tiny pinch of turmeric and salt. Stir it around and fry the potatoes for 2 minutes. Take it off once done.
- If there is excess oil, remove it from the pan and leave 2 tablespoons oil.
- Scatter the panch phoron and bay leaves to the hot pan and let it splatter for few seconds.
- Scatter the oil and stir it around. Season with salt and let it soften down a little. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomato and stir it around. Then in a bowl add the remaining ground spices from the ingredient list and pour a little water to make a spice paste. Add the spice paste to the pan, stir and let it cook for 3 minutes.
- Pour 2 cups water and bring it to boil, drop the whole green chili and then cover the pan. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Carefully layer the fried chenna/chana and, without covering the pan, let it simmer for 5 minutes. Check for salt and add more if needed.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. It's optional and enjoy the Chanar Dalna warm with rice.