Lentils and Meat are like two sides of a coin. In India, one is a staple food for vegetarians and the other mainstay for non-vegetarians. In their differences, they exemplify contemporary opposites, yet they agree on a great deal when it comes to a selection of preparations. One such recipe is Dal Gosht, a favourite North Indian cuisine prepared out of lamb or mutton and cooked in lentil soup.
For food chroniclers, the dish is an excellent example of unity in diversity. For instance, the Hindus traditionally do not mix lentils and meat. The Muslims, however, are happy to combine the two because they add meat in all kinds of dishes, even in vegetable curries and gravies. Yet, Dal Gosht is a curry that is relished by all communities.
It’s a simple dish, which requires tender mutton to be simmered with Dal over a few hours and is best served on a bed of steaming hot jeera rice or with rotis. The presence of Dal adds a unique flavour to the mutton recipe, besides eliciting a tickle to the taste buds.
The recipe also has a mood-lifting aroma. The mix of cumin seeds, green chillies, ginger and garlic paste, garam masala in sautéed onions and tomatoes is a base on which great expectations are built on. Add chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder over the mutton, and we have a hot favourite. But then there is a litmus test: for the perfect Dal Gosht, the slow-cooked meat should ideally fall off the bone.
In fact, the combination of dal and mutton has given birth to some interesting variants. There’s Lucknow’s famous Maash Kaliya and Hyderabad’s Dalcha. And the second set of classics comes from Parsi cuisine where Dhansak must be regarded as the king of all dal-meat dishes. Interestingly, it’s also a staple diet for chefs when they aren’t cooking elaborate meals for their customers.
Dal Gosht is often credited with bringing a spin to the traditional home curry. But few realise that it’s also blending an invisible convergence of culinary traditions where two different communities share their goodness to bring about a confluence of extraordinary taste. And it’s this remarkable aspect that makes the dish the best of both worlds.