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How a viral tweet highlights the diversity of dals

The West views dals as a ‘monolith’. To challenge this notion, a Twitter user started a thread and the responses are spectacular

The sheer variety of dals reflect the diversity of South Asian cooking. (Shiva Kumar, Pexels)
The sheer variety of dals reflect the diversity of South Asian cooking. (Shiva Kumar, Pexels)

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On Sunday, Rotterdam-based Phd student, Madhura Rao started a Twitter thread that asked her ‘South Asian friends’ to share how they prepare dal. It got over 100 retweets and 1000 likes, and the responses highlight the remarkable diversity of Indian as well as South-Asian cooking.

Her twitter handle is @madhurarao, and she posted, “South Asian friends, if I asked you to prepare 'dal' without any further instructions, what would it contain? Which lentils? Which spices? Any additional must-haves? I'm trying to see (well, show) something.” The recipe she shared was of toor dal spiced with ginger, cooked with turmeric and salt, and tempered with curry leaves, mustard seeds, asafoetida and slit green chillies. Her mother uses coconut oil, while she prefers ghee.

Her thread has received over 100 responses from all corners of India and South Asians located across the world, and almost each recipe is different. From adding raw vegetable, eggs to meat, there’s no end to how one can make dal. The thread demonstrates the spectacular variety of dal recipes. Marathis make the humble amti which is toor dal cooked with some jaggery, kokum, salt and turmeric. Bengalis have cholaar dal (channa dal) sweetened with sugar and enriched with cashews and raisins. A user with the Twitter handle @Omar_Haroon who spent some time in Pakistan shared the recipe of masoor dal cooked with whole spices like cinnamon stick, black cardamom and black pepper, with the addition of chicken marinated in oil and ajwain later. Another user talked about a dal cooked in the dhabas of Bihar and Jharkhand that features a fried egg. There are dals made with sorrel leaves in Andhra Pradesh, wild coriander leaves in Assam and dill leaves in Lucknow.

Commenting on the responses, Twitter user @aesdeluca accurately noted, “Reminds me about this Italian proverb about tomato sauce: “If you ask 1000 Italians about their tomato sauce recipe, you will get 999 different answers, and person 1000 is the brother of the first person.”

Yesterday, Rao revealed in a tweet her true intention for starting the thread. It was a ‘rebuttal’ to the notion that westerners hold about dals being a monolith. Nothing can be further from the truth, and now there’s a Twitter thread as a testament.

Also read | Easy to cook, masoor is your go-to dal

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