The 1947 partition has left scars among various communities, scars that don’t seem to be getting lighter with the passing years. Among other things, it has also displaced the Indo-Aryan ethno linguistic community of Sindhis from their native land, Sindh (present day Pakistan) – a land that no longer belongs to our country.
For a community displaced during the partition, food has been an essential way Sindhis have stayed connected with their roots. From the traditional Sindhi curry to koki to the famous papad, their dishes have a subtle flavour that stands out to the taste buds and transports the magic of Sindh to every household with its distinctive taste. My favourite of all, is the delicious dal pakwan that can be had for breakfast or even a heavy snack. While it may not be the healthiest dish, the goodness of the spices mixed with the pakwan will make you wish you were born in a Sindhi household.
So the next time you crash at a Sindhi friends house after a night out, be sure to stay for breakfast the next morning. In all likelihood, you’ll be treated with the most famous Sindhi dish – which is also the tastiest breakfast item! Dal pakwan is essentially chana dal, spiced up with green chillies and served with the ever so tasty deep-fried snack, pakwan, which is made with plain flour dough. This may not sound too fancy but together, accompanies by the right chutneys, this combination has the power to blow your minds.
While some Sindhi households prepare this sinful dish only for special occasions, and others go all out eating this a few times a week (RIP health), most Sindhis follow an age long unwritten traditional of preparing and eating dal pakwan at home every Sunday. For my best friend, dal pakwan has always been a tangible memory of Sundays with her family. Even today, there is a taste of childhood in every bite of dal dipped pakwan for her, just as it is for most Sindhis who have grown up eating this breakfast item every Sunday. While essentially the taste is universal, most households have their own little ways of making the dish stand out. While some serve it with sweet chutney, others prefer it topped with onion pieces, accompanied by spicy pickle.
Where can you eat this?
Post partition, a lot of Sindhis were forced to relocate from the Sindh region, as a result of which Mumbai has a decent size population of Sindhis. The best place to enjoy the dal pakwan, therefore, is undoubtedly a Sindhi household. Since this may not be possible for all, there are a fair amount of places that still serve authentic dal pakwan. Street vendors that roam the Sindhi dominated areas such as Ulhasnagar, Chembur and Thane rarely ever go wrong with this dish. For other sit down joints and delivery options, there is Sindhful in Khar, Guru Kripa in Sion and several joints in Chembur to choose from, such as Dama Dum Mast Kalandar and Vig Refreshments.
How to make your own dal pakwan
A recipe borrowed by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, to make dal pakwan start by soaking chana dal in three cups of water for about an hour, then drain, boil and add salt and turmeric powder till just done. Next, add the boiled dal and half a cup of water if the dal is too dry. Stir and add half the red chilli powder and half the garam masala powder. Stir gently and cook on low heat. Heat three tablespoons of oil in another pan and add one teaspoon cumin seeds. When they begin to change colour, add green chillies, curry leaves, remaining garam masala powder, remaining red chilli powder. Add and mix it to the dal and take it off the heat. To make pakwan, sift refined flour and wheat flour into a large bowl. Add semolina, half teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed black peppercorns, four tablespoons of oil and salt, sufficient water and knead into a semi-soft dough. Divide the dough into eight portions and roll each portion into a chapati of four-inch diameter. Heat sufficient oil in a kadai and deep-fry pakwan on low heat till golden and crisp, and drain on absorbent paper. Garnish the dal with chopped onion and chopped coriander leaves and serve it hot with pakwan.