Chhanar Daalna

Bengali cuisine usually has multiple course meals where one course is served after another in a series and that too one or two at a time which is unique in entire Asia and is similar to french cuisine. Even a typical and simplest of Bengali  menu is usually comprised of  multiple and distinctive items. 

Chhaanar Daalna is  one of the oldest, celebrated, simple and unique traditional bengali recipe especially for vegetarians and saatwiks who want vegetarian without onion or garlic. It is especially fit for Pujas or special  hindu religious feasts. Even though most bengalis are  hardcore non-vegetarians, a major sect of them also follow different cults like ISKCON, Gouriya Math, Swarupananda Hari Om, Anukul thakur devotees, Ram Thakur devotees & so on. Even some of the traditional bengali widows of recent times strictly follow a vegetarian diet which include totally different kind of Bengali vegetarian cuisine with no onion and garlic. In such households or kitchens since late medival ages dairy especially chhena, milk, curd, cream found a special place, since they serve as the only source of animal protein in such cuisines. Chenna or cottage cheese is the  most common among other dairy ingredients used in cooking. And a number of niramish recipes are known to be prepared with this special ingredient that are also offered as bhog to the deity during Puja. Shri Krishna Janmashtami is also celebrated in Bengal with elaborate menu as bhog which include a generous use of dairy products , as our beloved Bal Gopal is very fond of cream & milk products. Chaanaar dalna is one of the recipes that Bengalis prepare for such special occasions. So I found Janmashtami as the perfect time for sharing this traditional Bengali cuisine. 

 Chhanar daalna or chhanar torkari is a mildly aromatic curry of soft, juicy, melt in the mouth cottage cheese or paneer balls immersed in a thin gravy. This dish is one of the first choices for a celebrated bengali vegetarian meal. Different households or kitchens may have diffrent versions of it. But I have strictly followed my mom’s  steps for this recipe which she has inherited from her mother as legacy.

Since Shri Krishna is known to be an ardent dairy lover, hence on this occasion of Janmashtami serving him with a sumptuous meal having his favourite chhanar daalna as one of the main items along with other accompaniments of sweets, curd, chholar daal, bhaaja and labras in his special bhog (offering) would feel great. So, let us now jump to recipe below :


Ingredients :

A) For preparing cottage cheese (Chhaana) dumplings :-

  1. Milk – 500 ml.
  2. Lemon juice – As per requirement.
  3. Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp.
  4. Turmeric powder – 1 or 2 pinch.
  5. Refined floor (Maida) – 1/2 tsp.
  6. Oil (Mustard oil for frying) – 3 to 4 tbsp.

B) For tempering :-

  1. Paanch phoron (mix of whole cumin, coriande, fenugreek, nigella, and mustard seeds) – 1/2 tsp.
  2. Dry red chilli – 1.
  3. Bay leaves – 1 or 2.
  4. Ginger (grated) – 1/2 tsp.
  5. Oil – Amount left after frying.

C) For gravy :-

  1. Potato sliced or cut into medium sized pieces – 2 medium size.
  2. Ginger – 1 inch piece.
  3. Cumin seeds – 2 tsp.
  4. Coriander seeds – 1 tsp.
  5. Green chillies – 4 to 5.
  6. Grated coconut – 1 tablespoon (optional)
  7. Raisins – few.
  8. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp.
  9. Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp.
  10. Bengali garam masala ( Cinnamon stick & 2 cardamoms ground together) – 1/4th tsp.
  11. Sugar – 1/4 tsp or as per choice.
  12. Salt – As per requirement.

Preparation :

  1. For curdling the milk, bring it to boil on a medium flame.
  2. Then add little freshly squeezed lemon juice and keep stirring the milk,
  3. The milk start curdling after few minutes, if not add more lemon juice & keep stirring,
  4. When the milk curdles completely, bring down & collect it over a muslin cloth while leaving behind the greenish whey.
  5. Keep the whey in a bowl for using it later in the gravy or store it for other purpose like making roti & paranthas or some other curry, as it has high nutritive value.
  6. Hang your muslin cloth containing chhena for 30 minutes to 1 hour to drain the water completely, ( Note: You may refer to my previous posts for detailed chhena preparation.)
  7. While your chhena is hung, do the preparations for the gravy.
  8. In a bowl take cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger & 1 green chilli and grind them in a grinder or traditional sheel paata to make a smooth paste. I have used sheel paata this time to get that incredible taste which the traditional curry imparts when cooked in a traditional way.
  9. Soak raisins in a bowl & keep aside.
  10. Take out the chhena after due time in a dish or tray. Crumble it with your fingers.
  11. Add little salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and maida to it and mix them nicely with the chhena.
  12. Mold it into a smooth dough.
  13. Take small amounts of the dough mix & roll them into small balls and then press them slightly from the top to flatten them a little.
  14. Heat oil in a pan and shallow fry the chhena dumplings over a low flame till golden yellow. Do it carefully by turning them continuously as they may turn blackish very quickly.
  15. Bring down on a dish & keep it aside.
  16. While your oil is still hot, fry the sliced potatoes till slightly golden over a low flame.
  17. Take out the fried potatoes & keep aside.
  18. Add little more oil if you find it too less and let it heat completely.
  19. Add dry red chilli & bay leaves & saute over a low flame.
  20. When the red chilli turns dark, add paanch phoron & let it splatter.
  21. Add grated ginger and saute, to fry it nicely.
  22. Add the ground spices paste and saute to fry it .
  23. Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder & mix them.
  24. Saute to fry the mixture well till the oil starts seperating. You may sprinkle little water to keep it moist & avoid burning away.
  25. Add fried potatoes, green chillies, salt & sugar and mix them well together
  26. Sprinkle little more water if you find it dry and keep stirring.
  27. The mixture will impart a nice aroma when cooked.
  28. Add grated coconut & mix.
  29. Add water (you may use the whey that we have kept earlier). [Note : The gravy should not be too thick, it should be thin enough to be able to penetrate the cheese balls].
  30. Add the cottage cheese balls & bring it to boil for 1 or 2 minutes. Do not overcook or the balls may get disintegrated.
  31. Add garam masala powder.
  32. Simmer for a minute.
  33. Switch off the flame, bring it down & let it rest for sometime.
  34. Your yummilicious Chhaanaar Daalnaa is completely ready. Serve it with plain rice, puri(s) or luchi(s).

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