Aam Dal or the Mango Lentil Soup is very easy to make. Green mangoes are also therapeutic in nature and keeps the body temperature down, precisely why the recipe must have originated in some Bengali kitchen during the sweltering summer heat.
Summer is slowly waltzing into Dubai. A few more days and suddenly the celsius scale would be touching the 40ºC on a regular basis. I have spent so many summers in Dubai, yet the temperature in any random summer day still shocks me every time I know the exact magnitude of it. Conversations with other mums on school runs during the summer while picking up the Z-Sisters sound typically like these – ‘My God, isn’t it really hot today?’ or ‘Did you see the temperature today? It is 40!’ or ‘Really? It’s 40 already? But it’s not even May!’
Do all Dubai-ites have this annual short-term amnesia? Or is it only me? Why does it surprise me so much when the temperatures eventually soar high? Do I expect anything else? Or am I too lazy to make new conversations? Whatever be the case, it does give me the excuse to resort to some traditional kitchen remedies to cool my body temperature down. Let me share my dear mum-in-law‘s traditional Bengali remedy to combat the summers … the Aam Dal or the Mango Lentil Soup, before the green mangoes in the supermarkets ripen up and turn yellow. Green mangoes are also therapeutic in nature and keeps the body temperature down, precisely why the recipe must have originated in some Bengali kitchen during the sweltering summer heat.
S’s family comes from Opar Bangla, that is originally Bangladesh. Their food habits are very different from what I have grown up eating. Aam Dal would be served as the last course at lunch time, rather than at the beginning of a meal. I also like to drink chilled Aam Dal!
The story of Epar Bangla and Opar Bangla / This Side and That Side This is an interesting aspect of Bengalis which calls for a lot of controversy and has given rise to many a literary or intra-family debates. When India attained her independence in 1947, Bengal got divided into two parts - one part falling into India and the other part falling into Pakistan which was known as East Pakistan. in 1971 East Pakistan became Bangladesh when the later seceded from Pakistan.
A lot of families were scattered between these two portions (if I may borrow the term from food terminology!) of Bengal. For a Bengali residing in the Indian portion of Bengal, Bengal in India is Epar Bangla (Bengal on This Side!) and a person hailing from this side is colloquially referred as a Ghoti. And the portion of Bengal that falls in Bangladesh is Opar Bangla (Bengal on That Side!) and a person whose ancestors originally hailed from 'that side' is termed as a Bangal. Bengali is spoken in both sides but the dialect and the accent differs drastically. So does food habits and cultural orientation. I am a Ghoti but my husband is a Bangal. The fish dishes cooked in my in-laws' place are very different from what I have grown up eating. So are some of the Dals cooked. Aam Dal is eaten here at the end of a meal and not in the beginning of a meal as other traditional Dals! There is a major debate as to who are better cooks. I love eating good food - whether it is from this side or that side or from the middle. I have incorporated both the styles of cooking in my life and in my opinion there's no point getting into a debate as to which side cooks better. Simply enjoy both as that will give you more options in life! The story of This Side and That Side breaks down in a foreign land The so-called Ghoti-Bangal debate has no significance when Bengalis (whether from India or from Bangladesh) are living thousands of miles away from their original homelands. When I walk into a supermarket and a Bangladeshi assistant hears me speaking in Bengali to Big-Z or Li'l Z, one of the most likely string of conversations that might follow sounds like this - 'Apni ki Bangali?/Are you a Bengali?' and then 'Kothakar? Kolkatar?/From where?From Kolkata?' and finally 'Amio Bangali. Bangladyasher/ I am a Bengali too. From Bangladesh'. Then there will be a series of information swapping. From his side: How long am I here? Do I work here? How often do I go to Kolkata? Have I ever been to Bangladesh? From my side: How long is he here? How long is he working? How old are his children? Do they go to school? Then the inevitable.. the final question from his side: Dada kothay kaaj koren?/Where does elder brother work?' where, elder brother respectfully indicates my husband! It's amazing how this geographical border erases out in a foreign land. I have had the same experience every time I have come across anyone from Bangladesh. And why should there be any difference? After all Rabindranath Tagore, the greatest poet in Bengali literature, a Nobel laureate, has penned both the Indian national anthem as well as the Bangladeshi national anthem. Bengalis the world over have more common things to share than just common songs and common tunes!
Discovering my identity at a macro level
When Srilanka became our home a decade ago, I used to seek out for Indians, thus broadening my horizon beyond Bengal. When we set up home in Dubai, I started seeking out for Indians and Srilankans. When we moved to Frankfurt and set up our home there, I started seeking out for Indians, Srilankans and anyone from Dubai or having an UAE connection. When we came back to Dubai once again, I started seeking out for Indians, Srilankans and Germans.
I am slowly becoming multi-cultural and I realise that I am on my journey to become a global citizen. While doing so however, I haven’t shed any my old feathers. I just kept on adding new feathers as I grew.
Biting into the pulp of the mango as well as savouring the mango seed till the last juicy drop of dal is sucked out – that has to be the mission when Aam Dal is served at the dining table for your dear family. While I request you to incorporate that philosophy into all your meal experiences, this Aam Dal can’t be savoured hurriedly or on the go. Each sip or a spoonful with plain white rice should go into your system slowly, one sip at a time, one spoon at a time!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Summer recipes that you might like making: Cumin Beetroot Salad Frozen Aam Pana or Raw Mango Pulp Drink
Disclaimer: This isn’t a sponsored post, nor are there any affiliated links for any of the brands that may have been mentioned in this blogpost. The subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and all images are from my personal album. While you enjoy reading my posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from these posts.
1 cup masoor dal / orange lentils A non-traditional variation
Aam Dal or Mango Lentil Soup
3 green mangoes, peeled and cut into big cubes
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 dried whole red chillies
2 green chillies
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp sugar
sugar as per taste
1 tbsp mustard oil
Many of my friends who are not so accustomed to Bengali Cuisine or Indian Cuisine for that matter find the mustard seeds come in the way of appreciating the taste of the dal. I often remove the seeds or use a sieve while making sure that I stir in enough mango pulp to retain the original flavour of the dal. Occasionally, I add add ½ cup of low-fat cream to thicken the consistency. Although the dal loses the authenticity of a Bengali dal, it does become quite rich and creamy.
1 cup masoor dal / orange lentils
A non-traditional variation