What are Chakolya
In Maharashtra lentils are cooked and made into a dal called amti, served with rice as a staple meal. However sometimes instead of rice and chapati (bread) the chapati dough is rolled and then cut into diamond shaped pieces and dropped into the cooking lentils till the dough is cooked out. Almost like pasta, right!
Chakolya or waranphala “fruits(dough)-in-dal” are a comforting meal served hot and with a drizzle of ghee. The dal is flavored differently in different homes. Its sweet and sour in some homes or in some homes it carries some heat from chili powder. We have come across varieties using onions, tomatos, tamarind, jaggery, coconut, curry leaves, lemon juice, garlic, ginger et al in various combinations. Some dont use any of them at all. So it really varies from house to house.
A bit north of maharashtra, instead of split lentils whole tuvar lentils are used and there it takes the form of dal dhokli.
Credits to our Accomplished Chakolya Makers
Now we have had some fantastic chakolya’s. Here we have picked up some flavor inspiration from our friends moms. Our friend Gayatri’s mom Sanyogita Kaku makes a fantastic bowl of chakolya’s. They have a perfect balance of heat and acidity. Talking to our friend Meghana we found out her mom uses carom seeds or ajwain or owa in the rolled dough. This sounded very much flavorsome. We also had loved the Chakolya’s our friend Neeta made. We also looked up the recipe from sindhutai sathe’s epic book on maharashtrian cuisine.
These and many other experiences of eating and talking about chakolya had given rise to a few ideas. We decided to try them out.
Borrowing from pasta making techniques
As we said rolled dough cooked with a sauce seemed very much like pasta. In traditional chakolya, the dough is boiled in the dal. My friends argue this allows them to absorb the flavors of the dal. However to be honest in a spoonful of chakolya with overpowering flavors from the dal i have not necessarily tasted the flavors of dal separately in the cooked dough. Besides we have always found that sometimes these cooked strips of dough pile over each other and stick to each other making it a tad difficult to eat.
Hence we decided to make a pasta like filling. We borrowed the agnolotti technique from the french laundry cookbook and decided to experiment with some cleaner delineated flavors brough together.
We started by cooking some lentils. The golden color of cooking lentils always leaves us quite excited.
We then cooked this quickly over little oil and seasoned it generously with goda masala and red chili powder. We wanted this filling to be boldly flavored to really remind one of the traditional chakolya. Goda masala is a typical maharashtrian masala characteristically known for not packing heat or pungency. It is characterized by use of lychen called dagad phool and the sweetly aromatic spices like cloves and cinnamon. You can find a wonderful article and recipe here.
Although the traditional recipe calls for dough made with jaggery water, we made a simple lose dough with high extraction wheat flour or atta. We rolled it really thin dusting it with flour. Its not a problem if you dust it generously since you are going to boil the rolled dough anyways. We cut it down to a rectangle and rolled it further.
We also made a flavored oil by heating oil, chili powder and goda masala heating oil slowly on medium in order to extract the flavors without burning these powdered spices.
We boiled the dal filled pockets for 6 to 8 minutes in salted water. Boiling them separately afforded much more control in cooking them. We used the pasta water, and some dal and made a pan sauce using the cooking water, some dal puree, turmeric, chili powder. We then tossed and cooked the dough pockets in this emulsion.
We finished plating by adding the dal puree, the cooked pockets and drizzled them with the flavored oil and garnished with chopped cilantro stems.
If we could say so ourselves these were delicious. They were flavorful, strongly rooted in the traditional flavors. However we felt this benefited from the various textures, especially the silky smooth daal and the unctuous drizzle of flavored oil. It did disappear from our plates very quickly.
The fatter bigger pouches we made we decided to use differently. Since this had lot of the boldly flavored dal in the filling in a large quantity a spoonful was going to be very much dal flavored. Hence we decided to make a simple ghee sauce for these. We heated some ghee, and added some very finely chopped onion to melt it in the ghee. We then added some cooking water and the pockets and seasoned with some chili powder and goda msala. This was a very simple brown butter kind of sauce. We played and then de-glazed the pan and finished the dish with this drizzle. This was delicious as well. In fact the big spoonful of warm dal filled ravioli like pouch glazed with ghee is very comforting and a sinful bite.
There can be many more ways to make this dish with various fillings and seasonal vegetables featured. I hope you experiment too staying hones tto the traditions but with the spirit of adventure.