City Food – Dal Makhani, Cosy Restaurant
A lentil excursion.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You must agree: the universally loved dal makhani is as critical for the survival of Delhi’s food and beverage service industry as India’s middle class is for its automobile economy. And it’s so sturdy. The dal’s creamy texture makes it as robust as any wrestler in Punjab.
One of the better places to experience it in the Capital is at the moderately antique Cosy restaurant (since 1962) in south Delhi’s Aurobindo Marg. This small, unpretentious place makes up the nostalgia of many well-known artists and writers of today who were struggling to be somebody in the city during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
In this dimly-lit eatery, the dal is accompanied with mint chutney, pickled red onions and papad. Its top is very tempting, gleaming with blobs and streams of white cream and yellow Amul makhan.
Although dal makhani seems irrevocably linked to the very essence of Cosy, it wasn’t introduced here until 1982, reveals founder Harcharan Singh. At 83, the turbaned gentleman sits in the restaurant every evening, on a table beside the cashier’s desk.
The cooking of the dal is a long-drawn process here. As the uneven combination of rajma and urad boils on a tandoor, the experienced cooks build up the aroma with fresh tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, and, of course, with generous quantities of cream, and many masalas.
The dal that is finally served to the diner abounds with an assortment of flavours—each seamlessly folded into the others and yet every ingredient managing to retain its distinctness.
A truly distinguished dal makhani has its many components doubling up as allies as well as rivals. At Cosy, the dal’s butter and tomato playfully gang up against the joint forces of urad and ginger. Both pairs make deep and distinctive imprints in the sensory memories of the diner that last long after exiting the eatery.
To dal makhani, with love