City Food - Poet Ghalib's Daal, Somewhere in Delhi

City Food – Poet Ghalib’s Daal, Somewhere in Delhi

City Food - Poet Ghalib's Daal, Somewhere in Delhi

On the poet’s birth anniversary.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Happy Birthday, Ghalib! You turn 226 today.

It’s not easy to crack Delhi’s greatest poet. The most sophisticated Urdu intelligentsia find his poetry formidable, for Mirza Ghalib is said to be all ishara (allusions) and isteaara (metaphors).

The Agra-born Ghalib also wrote extensively in Persian, and that part of his oeuvre is considered super-mushkil even by the hardcore Ghalib wale. That said, some of our shayar’s verses are so simple that roadside majnus swing to them. Take this (sing this!):

“Ishq par zor nahīñ hai ye vo ātish ‘ġhālib’,
ki lagāe na lage aur bujhāe na bujhe.”

Whatever, here’s a trick to get intimate with Ghalib without undertaking the rigorous homework of mastering his poetry. Just cook his favourite daal!

According to his collected letters, Ghalib would find joy in maash ki daal; that’s why it is showcased in the beautiful museum of Ghalib Academy. On his birth anniversary, The Delhi Walla serves you the daal’s suitable recipe sourced from the home kitchen of Delhi poet Mateen Amrohvi, who at 86 still recites most of Ghalib from heart. What’s more, his 2008 poetry collection—Gul Hai Sukhand Bar Zameen e Ghalib (see photo)—had his ghazals published parallelly with Ghalib’s verses. “I have adapted my life to Ghalib’s way,” poet Amrohvi says, asserting that he has been offering prayers at Ghalib’s grave when it was still a kacchi qabar, and not the marble mazar of today. (This evening at five, flowers will be offered at the aforementioned tomb, in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.)

Ghalib’s daal (goes best with kebabs and poetry)


1/4 cup Urad dal (soaked for 4 hrs)
1 glass water
3 green chillies, chopped
some salt, some cumin seeds
3 tbsp oil
Half onion, sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger-garlic paste
1 whole red chilly, coarsely chopped
Coriander leaves, fried browned onions and green chilly for garnish


Place a bhagona on moderate fire and pour water into it; add soaked daal, some of the green chillies and salt.
Boil till the daal is three-fourth cooked; it shouldn’t get mushy.
While on the boil, keep removing the jhaag coming up on the top.
Once done, drain the daal and keep it aside. Save the water too.
For the masala, heat oil in a karahi. Add cumin seeds. When they start crackling, add onion and fry them till soft.
Add ginger-garlic paste, followed by red chillies.
Fry until oil separates.
Add in the drained daal, along with water.
Now cook on high flame till everything is thoroughly mixed.
Sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves, browned onions and green chillies.
Serve with khameeri roti.