Niramish Dimer Dalna, Bengali Faux Egg Curry

3:06 AM

Niramish dimer dalna, Egg prepared with cottage cheese and chana dal
A Bengali delicacy

 Today is Jamaishoshti, a special day dedicated solely to the son-in-laws in a Bengali family. A day when the parent in-laws spoil and shower their jamai with love, blessings, gifts, and an elaborate feast with almost a never-ending list of dishes.

Jamai Shoshti falls on the sixth day of the bright fortnight on the Bengali month of Jaisthya. In this case, Shasti does not only refer to the sixth day, Rather it also mentions the Hindu folk goddess Maa Shasti- The deity of reproduction, saviour, and bestower of children. She is worshipped by every mother wishing to ensure the protection of their children and every woman waiting to conceive. The goddess is embodied as a motherly figure riding a cat and nursing up to eight babies. Though every month of the year has a devoted day to pray to maa Shoshti, the month Jaisthyo is marked only for the son-in-laws.

Now The Bengali word Jamai is associated with many other notions, like jamai ador, Jamai thakano proshno (Question to befool the son in law) and even a proverb

jon jamai Bhagna, keu noy apna-

Which literally means 'Neighbour, son in law and nephews are never to be trusted as one's own.'

And this brings the question that if the Bengali culture has such an untrusting notion of the jamai then why such elaborate preparations are made to indulge the him?


The reason lies in the social scenario of the 8th and 9th centuries when child marriage was very common. One of the faiths in Bengali culture is that unless a married daughter bears a kid neither she can come to her parent's place nor her parents can visit her. So Jamaisashti was the only day where the parents can formally invite their daughter and son-in-law home and take good care of them.

A less elaborate Platter for the Son-in -law

The day starts with the mothers taking a holy dip or a head bath after which they make figures of the idols and the mount (the cat) with rice dough. A Branch of a banyan tree is placed in the front of the house and is decorated with a bamboo bow and arrow, rice dough figures, five types of fruits, and sweets. The jamai is welcomed by the mother with a wet hat pakha (handheld palm-leaf fan) and by tying a turmeric-stained thread on the forearm wishing for his wellbeing and prosperity. Then an elaborate menu is prepared to present to the Jamai.

While all this would take place the siblings and cousins of the girl whose husband has been invited would prepare for some fun, which though not formal but is a big part of This day. Jamaishasti and Jamai thakano (befooling/deceiving the son in law) goes hand in hand. With active help from the elders of the family, the group of siblings would try to befool their unsuspecting jamaibabu (brother in law).

 I have heard stories from my grandmother about how the group of sisters will prepare for days to bamboozle the jamai. Marbles would be placed under the piri (Chowki) so that when the jamai sits, it would start to roll. Everyone will laugh and rhyme

'ghora chara gadi jay dyakho dyakho dyakho '

(see how a cart is moving without the horse)

There was an art involved in making faux dishes and much time was devoted to perfect them. They would make sharbat with salt, Would make Pan with green chillies, fritters were made of thin papers dipped in batter and often sweets/tokti sondesh were made with tamarind seed powder dough. And when the Jamai would sit down for a formal lunch, in that huge array of dishes would be hidden few jamai thakano pod, deceptively lookalike dishes to befool him. Fish would be prepared from plantain peel, eggs prepared with cottage cheese etc. No matter how much the Jamai came prepared the group of siblings will find a way to respectfully make him feel awkward. 

History says, even the famous sweet Talshansh sondesh in the shape of palm fruit kernel was exclusively prepared by the famous sweet maker Surya Modak to befool the son-in-law of the zamindar of Telenipara. The sweet looked dense but had a secret cavity inside it, holding rose water, which when bitten by the unsuspecting jamai went everywhere. It amused the waiting sister in-laws and even the elderly women behind the doors. Who often were the masterminds behind such childish mischievous planning. 

Gone are those days of joint families where burdens were shared and life was simple yet fulfilling. All that is left are these mere rituals and some recipes that we have to fumble for in our memory. One such is this niramish dimer Dalna. Which my Dida wanted to cook for her nat jamai (grandson-in-law). A simple and fun recipe and I can assure you unless told no one will be able to find out that these were not real eggs.

Niramish Dimer Dalna (Vegetarian egg curry)

(Makes 6-7 eggs)


Ingredients:

Chana/ freshly made cottage cheese: from 1.5 liters of milk

All-purpose flour: 1/3 cup

Chana dal: 3/4 cup

Potato small: 3

ginger paste: 2 tsp+1/2 tsp

Garlic paste: 1 tsp

Onion: finely chopped; 3/4 cup

Tomato: 1 medium

Cumin powder: 2 tsp

Coriander powder: 2 tbsp

Turmeric powder

Chili powder as per taste

Salt

Bay leaf: 1

Whole cardamom: 2

Cloves: 4

Cinnamon: 1/2" piece

Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp

Mustard oil: 4 tbsp plus for frying

Sugar: 1/2 tsp+1/3 tsp (powdered)

Pepper powder: 1/3 tsp

w:

This recipe is cooked in three parts first the stuffing and shell is prepared

Eggs are formed and fried

The gravy is prepared.

1. To make the shell:

Mash the Chana very well so that there is no lump. Add just a fat pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tbsp flour for binding keep aside.

For the stuffing: Wash and soak the chana dal for 30 minutes and then boil with 1.5 cups of water so that it absorbs the water and is cooked through. Make a smooth dough out of it with a little salt while it's still warm.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add 1 tsp ginger paste, 1 tsp cumin and coriander powder each. Cook for a couple of minutes and then divide this mixture and add to the shell and the stuffing. Mix well.

2. Shaping the eggs:



Make 6-7 portions out of each mixture. Make smooth round balls of the dal mixture.

Make a casing as shown in the picture and place one chana dal ball in it. Close the casing tightly and give it the shape of an egg-slightly tapered on one end as shown in the picture.

Dredge these in dry flour and deep fry in medium hot oil till lightly golden on all sides. Take out and keep aside.

3. Making the gravy:

Peel and cut the potatoes in half.

Heat 4 tbsp oil and fry the potatoes with salt and turmeric on low flame. Fry till they are 80% cooked. Take out.

In the same oil add the bay leaf, lightly pounded cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Once they splutter add the chopped onion, pepper powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. mix. Add the chili and turmeric powder. Cook on low for 7-8 minutes till they are cooked and start to turn golden.

Next, add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the cumin-coriander and mix. Add in the chopped tomato. Add some more salt as per taste and let the spices cook on low under a cover. After 5 minutes check if the tomato is mushy or sprinkle some water and let it cook some more.

Once the oil starts to separate at the sides add 1.5 cups of hot water. Place in the potatoes and let it simmer on low. Do a taste test and adjust seasoning.

Do not make the gravy very thick as the chana eggs will soak up a lot of moisture. So if needed add more water. Simmer the gravy for 8-10 minutes or till the potatoes are fork-tender. Mix 13 tsp sugar.

Add the chana eggs and mix. Switch off the flame and take the pan off the oven. Sprinkle some garam masala powder over it and cover.



After 5 minutes serve this dish with rice, roti, luchi or pulao.






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