The physiology of taste.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Dal makhani is as critical for the survival of Delhi’s food & beverage service industry as India’s aspirational middle class is for its capitalist economy. Not a single North Indian specialty restaurant in the capital can afford to exclude the calorie-filled dish from its menu.
The dal is extremely creamy and redolent of numerous tastes. Indeed, it is as robust as any wrestler in Punjab, its homeland. One of the better places to experience it in Delhi is at the unpretentious Cosy restaurant (since 1976) in Aurobindo Marg.
In this dimly-lit eatery, the dal is accompanied with mint chutney, pickled red onions and papadums. The dark-brown concoction gleams with translucent streams of white cream and yellow Amul makhan (butter). These trademark embellishments float languidly on the dal’s surface.
Although dal makhani is traditionally a combination of two varieties of beans, rajma and urad, the cooks at Cosy also add channa.
While the dal boils long-sufferingly on a tandoor, the aforementioned men join forces to lay its foundations of sumptuousness and vitality. That is achieved by fashioning an amalgamation of tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and, of course, great quantities of cream — not to forget a substantial number of spices, including garam masala. The contents are fried on a medium-hot skillet and transferred into the simmering dal, which continues to simmer for a long time.
The dal that is finally served to the diner abounds with an assortment of flavours – each of them is seamlessly folded into the others and yet each retains its distinctness.
A truly distinguished dal makhani, however, has its components acting like model companions. Take the dal at Cosy. The marriage of butter and tomato surfaces as a counterpoint to the fusion of urad and ginger. Both unions make deep and separate imprints in the sensory memories of the diner, and this assembly of multi-ethnic impressions stay with him long after he has exited the restaurant.
As rich as it gets