I am Lobia Dal. I am also known to the Western world as Spiced Indian Cowpea soup. But let’s be honest, I am just your plain Jane ever-trusty Lobia dal.
To prepare me, you need a pressure cooker. In the pressure cooker, you must sauté, on medium heat, in ghee-
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 big onion
3-4 green chillies, finely chopped
3 garlic, minced
An inch of ginger, grated
Once sautéed well, add –
1 teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
2 finely chopped tomatoes
1 cup soaked Red Lobia beans
Some fresh coriander, chopped
Pour two cups of water to the mix and set the cooker on medium heat.
After three whistles, all I need is a big squeeze of lemon and I am done. I taste best on the same day.
In the girl’s hostel in Delhi, I was served every Tuesday for lunch. The girls thronged the mess to get a piping hot ladle of me. Between the daily morning oily and bland versions of Alu Parathas and the evening spicy oily snacks like fries, macaroni, and Maggi, I was their oasis of comfort. When they would pour me over a bed of hot rice and then dunk some watery raita on me, I would merge to make a soupy mix that would remind them of their homes. I was not just dal anymore. I was a reminder of everything comforting and good about this world. No girl in the hostel cared about diet on Tuesday. All they cared about was filling their belly with some Lobia goodness.
The girls would sit for hours over me and discuss their lives in a weekly ritual. It is often said that good food brings people together, but by being the only decent food in the hostel I brought their hearts together. By the time the girls were done talking, it would be way past evening snack time.
I am told many girls went on to set up their own kitchens and replicate me there. I heard some of them were even successful. The girls said that I reminded them of their hostel days. Isn’t it funny that I once reminded them of their homes and now remind them of their college days? Maybe I am not just a plain Jane dal. I am a portal to their happy memories. Oh! dear world, how cruel I have been to myself? I never truly understood my own value. Occasionally, looking inward is not enough. We need others to tell us what we are worth. Sometimes, others can see what we can’t see in ourselves. We always tend to be a bit harsh on ourselves.
Dear world, I am not just Lobia Dal anymore. I have rebranded myself to reflect my true worth. I am now organic mildly spiced cowpea in tomato broth canned in a leakproof package, now available at your local supermarkets.