From the dry, arid and salt laden region of Gujarat comes this most amazing tasting and soulful Lila Chana/popta ni Dal Green Chana Dal/ fresh green chickpea dal, a winter speciality eaten with Bajra Rotla (pearl millet flat bread), hand churned white butter and Goru- a thick curd spiced with salt, red chilli powder, finely chopped green chillies and coriander. This dal is a winter speciality of Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).
The Little Rann of Kutch, a mud dessert is one of the most unique geographical regions on earth. As the waters from the rivers Banas, Saraswati and Rupen flow into and fill up the vast Rann, the region around the LRK remains water clogged during monsoons . The Rann is known for it’s salt, saltpan workers known as Agariya in Gujarati and Wild Ass/Gud-khar (it’s a wild ass sanctuary). After the monsoon rains ebb and all the accumulated water has sipped in the soil is left parched and dry, the Rann becomes home to salt farmers who arrive here from peripheral villages to stay put for 8 months and survive the most hostile living conditions on earth to produce inland salt (LRK is largest producer of inland salt in India). The villages on the periphery of the Rann might be some of the poorest in India but they are home to people with big hearts. Since the Rann is a salt marsh, the land of its periphery is too poor in quality. However, winters are times when crops that require no irrigation are cultivated and Desi Chana is one of them. These non irrigated crops require very little care, no pesticides or fertilisers hence, small and marginal farmers of the region too manage to have a decent crop.
The Lila Chana ni Dal recipe I share today is widely made and enjoyed during winters in this region. The Dal is generously flavoured with green garlic/lilu lasan which is another wither specialty of Gujarat. Inspite of working in the region for a very long time, I never got to taste it because never knew of its existence. The focus of work life was very different than and food was always a quick bite as we rushed between community meetings. It came as a pleasant surprise when I was told about this particular regional preparation that is so popular that families have farm gatherings to enjoy freshly stewed Lila Chana ni Dal.
The recipe I share here was given to be by Rupal Raval my ex-teammate who now runs a heritage stay in the region.There was a lot of back and forth to get it right, I know it wasn’t perfect because traditionally this would have been slow cooked on a wood fired chula. Nonetheless, it tasted awesome even after making it on a gas stove. Even a small bowlful of this dal goes a long way and when mixed with crumbled Bajri Rotla (pearl millet flat bread) it makes a meal worthy of a nap. So so filling. The accompaniments though quite a few are required and pretty simple to be assembled.
Hope you love this rustic and soulful Lila Chana Ni Dal…
Lila Chana Ni DalPrint Recipe
- 1.5 cups fresh green chickpeas/popta/Lila chana
- 1/4 cup fresh green garlic, chopped
- 1 inch ginger
- 2-3 green chillies (adjust according to taste)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons oil
- freshly pounded 2 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon, 3-4 black pepper corns
- salt to taste
- water to dilute the dal to desired consistency
Take a sauce pan or kadhai to boil and cook the fresh chickpeas/popta.
Cook them without cover until soft and mushy.
Once they cool down, crush them to a coarse consistency.
Mince the garlic, ginger and green chillies to make a pesto/lubdi
Place a kadhai on medium flame and add oil, once the oil heats up add cumin seeds.
Add the minced garlic, ginger, green chillies and fry for couple of minutes.
After the oil separates add the crushed green chickpeas and 2-3 cups of water.
Add the salt, continue to simmer for 10-12 minutes.
Just at the end of the cook add the freshly pounded cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns.
Serve hot with crumbled Bajra Rotla (pearl millet flat bread), Golu/spiced yogurt, garlic chutney and fresh white butter.