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Dhokar Dalna: Bengali Lentil Cakes [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

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Dhokar dalna, or lentil cakes, are a staple of Bengali cuisine. The lightly spiced lentil cakes are made from chana dal and dried peas with spicy chilis and a blend of warm spices. Then, they are fried and simmered in a gravy-like, cardamom-spiced sauce. Serve these with a side of steamed rice.

Dhokar Dalna: Bengali Lentil Cakes [Vegan, Gluten-Free]


For the Lentil Cakes:

  • 2 cups chana dal (see notes)
  • 1 cup dried peas (matar dal)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon asafoetida
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion seeds
  • 4-6 green chilis, finely chopped
  • Oil, for deep frying

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoon mustard or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 3-4 whole cardamoms
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 green chilis, slit
  • 8 large tomatoes, puréed
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder (optional)


To Make the Lentil Cakes:

  1. Mix the two kinds of dal and soak in water overnight. Drain the water and grind the dals/lentils into a smooth paste.
  2. Add coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, ginger paste, salt, and sugar and mix well. Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan.
  3. Add asafoetida, onion seeds, and green chilis. When they start to splutter, add the dal paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until all the water evaporates and the mix starts sticking together and comes off the side of the pan easily.
  4. Remove from heat and form the lentil cakes.
  5. Deep fry the lentil cakes until golden brown (takes about 3-4 minutes).

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a pan and temper with bay leaves, cardamoms, ginger paste, and green chilis.
  2. Add the puréed tomato and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Add cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, salt, and sugar. Cook for 10-15 more minutes or until oil separates.
  4. Now add the fried lentil cakes and stir lightly. Turn off heat and add garam masala powder. Serve with steamed white rice.


You can find products like chana dal, matar dal, and asafoetida in most Indian groceries.





Simple transnational cuisine made plant-based. Dhrubaa Mukherjee is a PhD candidate in the English Literature and Language department at an American University. Her areas of interest include contemporary South Asian literature and culture, Indian cinema, Postcolonial, transnational, and feminist Discourses, and food and culture. She also authors a successful food blog titled Not A Curry.



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