They say that Dal Bukhara was made famous by the Bukhara Restaurant ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi, but it is definitely a Punjabi style dish. Trying to find the origins of the dish is difficult, with some claiming it was created by the restaurant, some saying it comes from Bukhara in Uzbekistan, and others claiming it is a Punjabi dish from the 1700’s. This article has some interesting insights into the origin of both Dal Makhani and Dal Bukhara. Whatever the origin, the chef at Bukhara most likely adapted an existing recipe to suit the sophistication of the restaurant.
Dal Bukhara is often compared to Dal Makhani, although the dishes are distinctly different with different spicing. It is made with whole urad that is black in colour because it is unhulled. Slow cooked, it makes a deliciously creamy dal, and in this recipe its flavour is heightened with tomatoes, ginger and garlic as well as other spices.
In my recipe I use a slow cooker to cook the lentils, and the deep taste and creamy texture are accentuated this way. In this way the dish does not rely on cream and butter for its texture. However they can be added – see the notes below the recipe for this variation. The lentils can also be cooked on the stove top – cook them until soft and then continue with the recipe.
Dal Bukhara | Creamy Black Gram Dal
1 cup, about 200g, whole black urad lentils (black gram)
1 Indian bay leaf (Teja Patta)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
1 green chilli, chopped finely
4 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tomatoes, pureed
4 cm ginger, grated or chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tblspn ghee
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
0.5 tspn cumin powder
large pinch asafoetida
0.5 tspn coriander powder
0.5 Tblspn jaggery
1 tspn dried fenugreek leaves
onion rings and coriander leaves for garnish
1 Tblspn butter or cream for garnish
Wash the lentils well and soak them overnight. Drain well.
Place them into a slow cooker with the Indian Bay Leaf and ample water and cook on high for 6 – 8 hours. Check the water level periodically. Alternatively cook on the stove top until well cooked and disintegrating.
When the lentils are cooked, mash them a little with a potato masher, or use a hand held immersion blender and pulse it a couple of times.
About an hour before the lentils have finished cooking, heat the ghee in a pan and add the onions and chillies. Saute for a minute then add the garlic and ginger.
Saute the onions until golden. Stir in the asafoetida, cumin powder and turmeric powder. Saute for another 1/2 – 1 minute. Add the chopped and pureed tomatoes and salt. Saute for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring, and then add 1 cup water. Allow to cook, covered, over a slow heat until it cooks down into a red sauce. Set aside until needed.
When the lentils are cooked, add them to the sauce with the jaggery and mix well. Taste and season if more salt is required. Cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes.
A few minutes before serving, crush the dried fenugreek leaves in your hand and add to the dal. Mix well.
recipe notes and alternatives
Butter and cream can be add for a stunningly delightful dish with decidedly more calories. It is popular these days to make it this way rather than relying on the slow cooking for its creaminess. Add 0.5 cup cream and 2 Tblspn butter to the sauce with the lentils and jaggery and continue cooking as described in the recipe.
You can also add all sauce ingredients (except butter and cream) with the lentils in the slow cooker, with sufficient water to cook the lentils. Cook for 6 – 8 hours, then simmer for 20 mins (with the butter and cream if using) on the stove. Perfect!