|Dal the ingredients and Dal the dish are ubiquitous to India
Rangoon Na Vaal Ni Dal is one of the rarest dals I have seen in the Indian repertoire in all my chronicling of dals in the last few years. I’ve only seen it cooked in Gujarati cuisine on special occasions. And sometimes in the Mango season. The large, buttery beans slow-cooked in a typical Gujarati flavour profile with jaggery, imli, chilli powder and spicy ajwain to impart a unique balance of sweet-sour tang to this dish. I can eat bowls of it just by itself!
I have always been fascinated by this Dal for two other reasons! Its appearance - the beans are huge! (And get bigger on cooking!!) And for its name 'Rangoon Na Vaal' which in fact, gives us insight into its origins. Rangoon Na Vaal came to India during the Columbian Exchange — the great transfer of ingredients between the Americas and the Old World. These legumes first travelled from the Americas eastward to Europe and Africa, and then westward to the Philippines, larger South East Asia and Burma (then known as Rangoon) sometime in the 16th Century. They became popular with the indentured labour of Indian origin, particularly Gujaratis. And it is these folks that carried them back home to India with them. So ingrained was it in Burma that it arrived in India as Rangoon Na Vaal.
Rangoon Na Vaal according to the great WWW are also known as Butter Beans, Broad or Field beans and Lima beans, but in my experience, these beans are all slightly different. I had a chance to compare an African variant I picked up in Kenya and then some variants from this family from Australia. Besides this dal, these beautiful Vaal beans are lovely in soups, stews and salads and make a fabulous Hummus.
Recipe for Rangoon Na Vaal ni Dal
Time: 30 mins plus overnight | Makes 4 servings
Like other legumes, these beans take time to cook and are considered heavy, which is why it is a common practice to soak these seeds well and pressure cooked thoroughly, without overcooking. The heeng and ajwain are extremely important for the digestibility of this Dal.
- 2 cups Rangoon Na Vaal (broad field beans)
- Water to soak + 6 cups water for cooking
- 1/4 tsp Soda bi-carb
- 2 tbsp Oil
- 3-4 Kokum
- 3-4 Boria Marcha (round chillies)
- 1/4 tsp Ajwain (Carom seeds)
- 1/4 tsp Heeng (Asafoetida)
- 1/2 tsp Chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp Haldi (Turmeric) powder
- 1-2 tbsp Gur (Jaggery), grated
- 1-2 tsp Imli (Tamarind) pulp, optional
- Salt to taste
- Wash the Vaal, then soak with the soda bi-carb and 8 cups of water for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
- Drain, transfer to a pressure cooker, add 6 cups water and pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles or till the dal is cooked. Switch off the flame, leave the cooker aside and allow the steam to escape on its own. When pressure is completely released, open the lid and keep it aside.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan, add the kokum, heeng, ajwain, and boria marcha and let it all splutter. Add the chilli powder and turmeric powder and sauté on a medium flame for a few seconds.
- Add the cooked Vaal, ½ cup of the cooking water, jaggery, tamarind pulp and salt, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 5 to 7 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Use the remaining cooking water to adjust consistency as you like depending on whether you are eating it with rotis or rice. Serve hot. It is also classically served with aam ras and bapadi rotli.