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The sour-sweet saga of ‘tok dal’ – a Bengal summer speciality!

26 May, 2023 16:36:35
The sour-sweet saga of ‘tok dal’ – a Bengal summer speciality!

What can be more satisfying for a Bengali in the hot summer noon than a bowl full of piping hot 'tok dal' (sour lentil soup) spread over warm white rice, while tiny pieces of aromatic cooked raw mango pop from within! Bengalis not only love pouring 'tok dal' over warm rice and mixing it with their hand; they also love sipping a bowl full of the soothing concoction at the end of their summer meal. Dal is a healthy food option that has secured its place on the daily menu of almost every Bengali household. The fun fact about dal is that one can prepare it in numerous innovative ways just by adding the seasonal vegetable and various spices to it.

Tok dal is mostly prepared with masoor dal. However, households differ on the choice of using black mustard seeds or panch phoron (a typical Bengali spice mix consisting of fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and fennel seeds), although both add distinctive uniqueness to the dal and would pass with flying colours.

Preparing tok dal requires no extra hustle. One needs to simply add cut raw mango pieces while the dal is in its full boil. While some prefer lightly tossing the raw mango slices in oil before transferring them into the dal, others bake it by covering it with a bowl. It creates a slightly sweeter taste with a flush of utmost tanginess inside the mouth. A plate full of white rice mixed with warm tok dal is all one needs to experience summers in Bengal to the brim. You can add crisp potato fries by its side, and hola! The meal is complete! Bengalis at times add tamarind or tomato to regular lentil soups, enhancing the tanginess, although aam dal remains the constant winner.


Besides being delicious, tok dal comes with a number of health benefits. Green mangoes are rich in vitamin C, which is good for skin and hair. It aids in the treatment of dehydration and may possibly function as a cancer preventive strategy. Because they are a good source of vitamin A, green mangoes are good for your eyes and can help prevent anaemia. It lowers the possibilities of blood problems and also contains mangiferin, which aids in maintaining the proper levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and fatty acids in the body. On the other hand, because it is high in fibre and protein, masoor dal helps maintain the right body weight and controls blood pressure. It also has considerable amounts of calcium, zinc, folic acid, vitamin C, B6, B2, and magnesium.

Do you think that the concept of aam dal is solely restricted to Bengal? Proving it partially wrong, here are some similar dishes popular throughout India. While in the North Indian version ‘kacche aam ki dal’, the preparation starts with tempering hing, cumin, and fenugreek seeds in pure ghee, Andhra adds lightly crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, and curry leaves to spice up their ‘mamidikaya pappu’. Hyderabadi ‘kairi ki khatti dal’ requires the addition of a whole tomato and coriander leaves, whereas, grated coconut and tiny shallots go in the preparation of Kerala-style ‘parippu manga curry’. So now we can confidently claim, not only does mango rule the hearts of the Indians, but also binds the whole of human society together.

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