New Delhi: At Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony Thursday, one thing dignitaries and guests should look forward to is an exclusive dish only available at Rashtrapati Bhavan — ‘Dal Raisina’.
The luxuriant pulse dish apparently takes nearly 48 hours to cook. The guests will be served a ‘light’ dinner after High Tea, and the menu will feature both non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes, besides lemon tarts and rajbhog in desert.
It is another story that former US President Barack Obama got Gujarati kadhi and matar pulao during his visit to Hyderabad House in Delhi for lunch with Modi in January 2015, while Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was served dal makhani and kurkuri til bhindi when he and his ministers sat down for lunch with Modi this February.
Now it is all about Dal Raisina and ThePrint dips into the dish to discover its origins and flavours.
The birth of Dal Raisina
First invented in 2010 by Machindra Kasture, who was the executive chef to the President in Rashtrapati Bhavan then, Dal Raisina is the product of continuous experimentation.
Urad dal or black gram is first soaked overnight with rajma (kidney beans), and then washed and cooked with spices, tomato, saffron and cream for hours. The secret ingredient, according to Kasture, is the kasuri methi — that adds depth and a smoky flavour.
“It is such a big honour to have your dish being served to world leaders even now. We used to continuously experiment in the Rashtrapati Bhavan kitchen, and Dal Raisina was created on one such occasion,” Kasture told The Indian Express.
But, how long does this dal take to cook?
Kasture said the dal takes six to eight hours to cook under constant monitoring, but the current chef in the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s kitchen begs to differ. Chef Monty Saini said it takes no less than two days.
“Dal Raisina, a speciality of Rashtrapati Bhavan’s kitchen, is cooked for about 48 hours. Its main ingredients are brought from Lucknow,” Ashok Malik, Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson, told PTI.
The food on our plates always points to the politics and history of a place. Even a seemingly innocuous dish like Dal Raisina brings together produce from several countries and years of history.
Urad dal, for instance, finds its origins in south India — even though the style of cooking the dal is north Indian. According to the book A History of Food in India, urad dal was cultivated in the grasslands of the south India, starting in the “early to third millennium BCE”.
Rajma, another key ingredient in Dal Raisina, is surprisingly not Indian at all. It was cultivated 8,000 years ago in Peru. Some say rajma came from Mexico to Portugal and finally to India via European traders. The tradition of soaking and boiling the beans is also Mexican. Food historian K.T. Acharya credits the French for having first harvested the rajma beans in India at Karaikal and Mahe in Puducherry.
And the special ingredient — kasuri methi — comes from Kasur in Pakistan. The origin of the fenugreek plant itself is Mediterranean and is used in Egypt and Yemen as well. Historically, it has been used as a medicinal plant in the Indian subcontinent. Acharya traced its first mention to Sanskrit literature in 800-350 BC.
It seems the President’s dinner menu has a dish that finds gastronomical unity in diversity.
This article has been corrected to accurately reflect that the guests are of the President of India, not PM Narendra Modi.