Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Channe Di Dal Te Ghia (Split Channa Lentils & Squash)


There are only a few vegetables that can be combined with dal (lentils) that bring together a good balance of the two ingredients, but the trick is in finding them and making the dish appealing and tasty. In this manner, sag (spinach) can be made with a small handful of split moong dal but nowadays, it has become fashionable to throw in some sag into a pot full of whole moong dal. In Peshawar (Northwest Pakistan), they throw in carrots into the moong dal. Hyderabadi dal dishes may include some meat that cooks while it simmers.

Punjabis usually only mix one vegetable with dal to make a dish that is unusually delicious, but only if prepared right, otherwise it can become a thick broth that loses most of its taste and allure. This dish combines the long, curved, pale green Indian squash (also called cucuzza or Italian squash or bottle gourd) with a mildly-sweet taste with slightly nutty taste of the yellow split channa dal. When done right, the result is delightful, and has to be eaten with warm, crispy whole wheat roti or paranthas.

Part of the process is in choosing the right ghia (squash). It must not be hard but be tender when squeezed. Also, the outer skin should be easily pierced when poked with the thumbnail. This means that the ghia does not have much seeds and will cook fast and take on the taste of the dal easily.

Care must be taken that, while cooking, the ghia does not blend too much into the dal. It should be tender but the small pieces should be clearly obvious, mixed in with the dal.


2 cup channa dal (split channa lentil)

1 Ghia (Squash)

4 cups pani (water)

2 tbspn olive oil

1 medium adrak (ginger) – peeled and chopped, or use powdered ginger

1 medium piyazz (onion) – peeled and chopped

1 tspn garam masala

5 stalktops fresh dhania (coriander) – pinch off the leaves and cut into pieces

Spices: lal mirch (red pepper); namak (salt); haldi (turmeric) – to your taste.


1.  Place the channa dal in a bowl and wash it thoroughly in cold water, then rinse it out.

2.  Place the dal with 4 cups of water, salt, ginger, pepper and haldi in a pressure cooker and bring to a boil over high heat.  After two or three whistles, turn the heat off and after it has cooled down a bit open the cooker up. For those who aren’t used to pressure cookers, boil the dal in a pot for 15 to 30 minute over medium heat.

3.  While the dal is cooking, peel the squash and then chop it into ½ inch pieces. Soak in water till it is ready to be put into the dal.

4.  Put the heat on medium and let the dal simmer till the grains are tender. Stir occasionally to make sure the dal is not sticking to the bottom of the cooker. If the water boils off before the dal becomes tender, add some more water and let the dal simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

5.  Now throw in the chopped ghia into the dal and let them boil for 15 minutes. Check to make sure that there is still water in the pot; if needed add some more, stirring gently to make sure the dal does not stick to the bottom.

6.  Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 more minutes, then turn the heat off.

7.  Heat the oil in a small karai or wok and add piyazz (onions) and lal mirch and brown it a little. When roasted and the smell of the spice starts to come through, take off the heat and drop the masala into the pot of cooked dal and stir to mix well.

8.  Sprinkle the top of the dal with garam masala and the cut coriander leaves above.

mamas recipe inside3

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.



If you buy the big tubs of yogurt from the store or even make some yogurt at home, you may have noticed that when someone takes a spoonful of the yogurt and leaves the rest, then after awhile, the remainder of the yogurt will start to shed some water which will rise to the top. This actually makes the remaining yogurt a little drier.

To avoid this, simply take a tablespoon and stir the yogurt up. The water will become mixed in and will not shed or rise to the top and the yogurt will keep its consistency.