Bengali Recipe ~ Motor Dal er Bora (Yellow Split Pea fritters)

You know when a certain taste of your childhood comes wafting through at an inappropriate time and you impatiently push the thought back. For it to come back to you again, and yet again till the time you can no longer ignore it anymore. This is exactly what happened to me with these boras/fritters. Growing up this used to be a childhood staple specially when we had bhaate-bhaat {one pot starchy boiled rice with other veggies thrown in. All you need with that rice is some golden ghee, a fiery green chilli to two and a generous sprinkling of salt. Few accompaniments like a sunny-side up fried egg, some posto bata (poppy seed paste) and/or these fritters make the meal really special}. These fritters are also much relished with panta chaat (fermented rice, this is a staple in rural households of Eastern India during the long, hot summers.)

Once I left home these fritters disappeared from my life and would have stayed that way had a stray memory not triggered a major craving. I had to call my mother and ask for the bora she used to serve with bhaat-e-bhaat. Out came this recipe. According to my mother this is an easy-peasy recipe, only catch is grinding the dal bit. Traditionally the soaked dal/lentil is manually ground using the  shil-nora (stone slab and pestle). The dal has to be ground in such a way that the paste does not become too smooth, it should be semi coarse with a few dals left intact if possible. Those dals apparently add to the crunch when this fritter is fried. 

I do not have a shil-nora here in my London home, so had to pull out my trusty Nutri-bullet. Now I know a food processor or a dry grinder would have been more apt, but my food processor is too big for the quantity I was doing and my dry grinder is sadly too small. Nutri-bullet did do the job pretty fine.

(For the vegetarian version)
i. 1 cup of yellow split peas
ii. Half an inch of ginger
iii. 2 to 3 green chillies, finely diced
iv. 2 tablespoon of rice flour
v. 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds
vi. Half a teaspoon of fennel seeds
vii. Half a teaspoon of ajwain seeds
viii. Pinch of turmeric powder
ix. Salt to taste
x. 1 teaspoon of sugar
xi. 2 tablespoons of grated coconut (optional, when added tastes yum)
xii. Half a teaspoon of baking soda
xiii. One teaspoon of finely chopped coriander (I did not add it)
xiv. Oil for frying (traditionally this is fried in mustard oil, but you can use any frying oil)

For the non vegetarian version take out the coconut and add half an onion very finely diced. So you may go the whole hog and add both coconut and onion. I have done all the versions, they all taste great.

Now let's make the bora.

Soak the dal in room temperature water overnight.

Next morning rinse the dal really well and leave it to drain for about twenty minutes.

In your grinder chuck in all the ingredients. If using a dry grinder grind in short pulses, making sure not to make the paste too smooth. In between pulses keep checking and mixing with a spatula.

If using a Nutri-bullet like me, add about 1 tablespoon of water to the mix to begin with and give it a pulse. You will have to stop frequently and using a small spatula mix the ingredients well together. In total I paused for five to six times and added about 2 table spoons of water (the less water you add the better it is). This bit requires patience, but once this is done you are just a step away from some amazing fritters. 

Once the dal has reached semi smooth consistency but not watery (if it gets too watery add a bit more rice flour or a piece or two of bread, the problem with a watery mix is that the batter won't hold together while frying), pour it in a big bowl and using the spatula mix well with hand for five to ten minutes. This further breaks down the dals and makes sure that all the different spices and flavours get well incorporated. We call this 'fetano' in Bangla and usually people do this with hand or  a special wooden device 'dal fetano or jontro' is used. Apparently the more you mix the batter the better your fritters will taste. Once this is done to your satisfaction, heat some oil. You can either deep fry or shallow fry these fritters. I usually shallow fry them.

I like frying them in mustard oil, but you can use any frying oil. Once the oil is hot and smoking, reduce the flame to low, wait for a couple of minutes for the oil to cool down ever so slightly and take about one tablespoon of batter and carefully put in the pan. Repeat this till you have  five to six fritters frying in the pan. Now slightly increase the heat and fry the fritters five to six minutes on each side till they turn a crispy golden brown.  While turning the fritters in the oil do be very careful. 
Trick: What I do is using a spoon pour some of the hot oil onto the top part of the fritter. The hot oil kind of seals the batter and stops it from coming apart while turning.
Also I use a fork and a spoon for turning, bigger spatulas don't give me quite as much control.

Once both sides of the fritters are golden brown, drain on a kitchen towel. Repeat the process till all the batter is used up. It will depend on the size of fritters but with one cup I got appox twenty four fritters.

Sprinkle some rock salt (bit noon) on the fritter and enjoy as a snack with some garam chai or with some steamed rice for lunch or even make a jhal/curry with it.

Tastes best when hot and crispy.

With the leftover fritters my mother makes a dhal/curry the next day which tastes awesome as well. But that's another recipe for another day.

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