“What’s the menu tomorrow?”, I ask my mother unfailingly every Diwali eve and her answer is consistent, “phala, what else?”. While the Diwali family dinner is lavish in many home across North India, in our home it’s never really complete without phala or fara, a dumpling made with rice and urad dal common across many homes in Uttar Pradesh.
The savoury dish has an outer coating of rice with a filling of dal, usually urad or chana, and is boiled or steamed. Fara is a cumbersome dish to make and is usually only cooked once or twice a year. The preparations begin the previous night with separate soaking of rice and dal which is ground into pastes of different consistencies the next day. The rice paste is then cooked in a kadhai to give the dough glutinous consistency - similar to modak dough – rolled out like small rotis, stuffed with the dal filling and boiled or steamed. A generous amount of hing and ajwain ensures that it is lighter on the stomach. An alternate and quicker version of fara is made with wheat flour instead of rice where the flour is kneaded in a chapati like dough, filled with dal and steamed/boiled. Hot ghee or spicy garlic chutney are the common accompaniments with these dumplings.
The tradition of making fara during Diwali is rooted in agriculture. Autumn is the time for rice harvest in the Terai region (the lowland region in northern India). Urad or black gram is also harvested during this time hence the period from Karwachauth to Diwali sees dishes like fara and dubki (urad dal dumplings cooked in a hing, ginger and green chilli flavoured stew and eaten with rice) cooked in homes.
Fara is also cooked in Bihar and Jharkhand as dal pitha or gojha, with slight variations of spices. It’s also rolled in different ways – from a half-folded taco to a neatly shaped gujiya.
Call it by whatever name you please, but for a Terai native the taste of autumn is deeply rooted in the earthy, ghee-soaked aroma of this rice and lentil dumpling.
Here is how fara is made in my home.
200 gms rice (coarse variety), soaked overnight
150 gms split urad dal, soaked overnight
3 tsp ginger, finely chopped
3 tsp green chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp carom seeds (ajwain)
2 tbsp coriander powder
One-fourth tsp asafoetida (hing)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp mustard oil
Ghee to serve
For garlic chutney
100 gms green coriander
1 pod garlic, peeled
5-6 green chillies
1 tbsp tamarind pulp
Salt to taste
1. Grind rice along with the water it’s soaked in.
2. Remove the water from the dal and grind it. Make sure the consistency is thick, like a paste.
3. Mix ginger, green chillies, coriander powder, asafoetida and salt to the dal paste and keep aside.
4. Heat mustard oil in a kadhai and add the rice paste. Stir with a flat spoon. Once the rice turns into dough-like consistency remove it and place it on a large plate. Add carom seeds and salt and knead with oiled hands.
5. Now take a small ball out of the dough and shape it like a roti on a flat surface.
6. Place the dal filling on top of it and fold it like a taco or a gujiya/karanji.
7. Make similar dumplings with the rest of the dough and dal filling.
8. Boil water in a large vessel and drop all the dumplings into it.
9. Once the dumplings start floating on the surface, remove them from the water, slice and serve with hot ghee or garlic chutney.
10. Faras can be refrigerated for at least a weak, and can be pan-fried in a little oil or ghee to be eaten the next day.
1. Mix all the ingredients of chutney together and blend.
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