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Dal Dumplings in Yogurt with Tamarind Sauce (Dahi Bada)

I tasted dahi bada for the first time at the home of Chandra Shekhar Singh in Jaipur, Rajasthan. His wife had carefully soaked dal, ground it to a paste, added nuts, dried fruit and spices, fried little dumplings of the mixture, and then soaked them in water until spongy soft. She then carefully squeezed out the water, smothered them with yogurt and zesty tamarind sauce, and served them with a garnish of freshly ground spices and fresh coriander leaves. It was a sensory and culinary experience I've never forgotten.

YIELD: 18 badas


For badas
1 cup (250 ml) split mung dal
1/3 cup (85 ml) split urad dal
1 tablespoon (20 ml) minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon (20 ml) hot green chilies, minced
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) ground caraway seeds
11/2 teaspoons (7 ml) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) baking powder
2 tablespoons (40 ml) blanched almonds, minced
3 tablespoons (60 ml) raisins, soaked and minced
For yogurt sauce
11/2 cups (375 ml) fresh plain yogurt
3/4 cup (185 ml) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt
For tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon (20 ml) tamarind concentrate
1 green chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
2 tablespoons (40 ml) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) garam masala
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dry-roasted cumin seeds, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon (5 ml) garam masala
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) paprika
a few coriander leaves

1. Wash the dals and soak them in cold water for 3 hours. Drain.

2. Blend the drained dals in a food processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy. (You might have to add a little water).

3. Combine the dals, ginger, chilies, caraway, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add the almonds and minced raisins. Mix well. The mixture at this stage should be firm enough to scoop into portions. If not, add a little wholemeal flour. Divide the mixture into 18 bada portions.

4. Heat ghee or oil (which should be deep enough to cover the badas) in a wok or pan over moderate heat. When it reaches 175C/345F, carefully lift 6 badas into the ghee and fry them slowly for about 4 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown and puffed. Remove the badas with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Continue frying all the badas.

5. Place a 2-litre/quart bowl of lightly salted water next to the stove. Remove the badas from the colander and drop them into the salted water. Soak the badas for 15 to 20 minutes or until they become spongy and soft.

6. When the badas have soaked enough, carefully remove them from the water and gently squeeze out the water by pressing them between your palms. Place them on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

7. Combine the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a bowl and whisk them until smooth. Combine all ingredients for the tamarind sauce and mix well. This can be done whilst the badas are refrigerating.

8. When you are ready to serve the badas, place 2 or 3 spoons of the yogurt sauce on individual serving plates, place 2 or 3 badas in the centre, place more yogurt sauce on top, and drizzle a spoon of sauce on top of that. Sprinkle on the ground cumin, the garam masala, and the paprika and garnish with the coriander leaves.