Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Dahi Bhalle (Lentil Dumplings In Yogurt)


This dish can be found all over India in one form or the other where it is also known as dahi vada. But for Punjabis, it is known as dahi bhalle and is prepared in a slightly different manner. Punjabis also never eat dahi bhalle by itself like a snack the way it is eaten in other parts of India. Punjabi Dahi bhalle are usually an accompaniment to the main course, especially for plain rice or palao.

Bhalle are a fried dumpling made of the split and skinless urad (or mah in Punjabi) dal which is one of the most prized lentils of India since ancient times. When cooked as the whole grain, the black urad is the same dal that is served in restaurants around the world as “dal makhani”. Urad dal is both nutritious and recommended for diabetics. When split urad dal is cooked with split chole (chickpea) dal, you can cook one of the most beloved of Punjabi dishes – mah chole di dal.

Punjabi bhalle are typically round and fluffy; the vada made in other places are usually round and hard, or round with a hole in the middle like a doughnut and usually hard. Vadas can be eaten by themselves with imli (tamarind) or other chutneys or dipped, as in South Indian cuisine, in a sambar. Bhalle are normally only eaten when soaked in dahi (plain yogurt).

Dahi of course has many religious and medicinal uses in India apart from its culinary uses. Dahi is considered one of the panchamitras (the others being honey, sugar, milk and ghee) used in Hindu worship and puja. Dahi is also used in cosmetics when mixed with turmeric and honey, as a hair conditioner; and by itself with spices as a marinade for meats. Full fat dahi has 12% calcium and is high in protein, sugar and carbohydrates. Dahi and honey is a prized food and yogurt by itself has live cultures that can prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

1 cup urad dal (split and skinless)
1 cup dahi (plain yogurt, preferably 1% fat)
¼ cup doodh (milk, preferably 1% fat)
Spices to taste: namak (salt), mirch (red pepper), dhania (coriander) powder, garam masala, hing (asafetida), jeera (cumin seed)

1. Soak the urad dal overnight, or at least for 6 hours, in a pot. Drain the water in the morning a few times to get all the dirt out.

2. Place the soaked dal in a grinder and grind to a thick paste. Do not use much water while grinding otherwise it will be difficult to fry the bhalle.

3. In the ground dal, mix in the namak, mirch, dhania, garam masala and hing (the hing will aid in digestion).

4. Pour some oil in a kadai or wok and place over medium high heat.

5. Coat your hands with a few drops of water and place a tablespoon of the mixture in the palms and form a round ball. Gently let the ball slide into the hot oil. Repeat with the rest of the mixture till there are several balls in the oil. Repeat till the entire mixture is fried.

6. Turn the balls over till each side is slightly brown then take them out and place on a couple of paper towels to soak the excess oil and let them cool down.

7. Place the cooled down bhalle In a warm pan of water and let them soak for 10 minutes.

9. Mix the milk thoroughly into the dahi in a wide brimmed bowl and then slide the bhalle in. Cover and let them soak for an hour in the fridge.

8. When ready to serve, sprinkle with roasted jeera (cumin) and the coriander powder. If you like, pour some imli (tamarind) chutney on the top too.

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.