What Makes Dal Bukhara So Legendary? Can It Be Made At Home?

India is obsessed with dal. You’d find plenty of variants of the same in an average Indian kitchen itself.  Dals that are homegrown, dals that traveled to India via traders, travellers or refugees; all variants find their designated dabbas and sit happily together on their respective shelves. When the partition of India took place, much of West Punjab’s culinary influences also reached the new India, all its way to Delhi. The original creator of Dal Makhani, Kundan Lal migrated to Delhi post-partition. He is not only credited for giving us two of our favourite dishes, Tandoori chicken and Dal Makhani, but also popularising the black urad in India. Dal Makhani, also known as Maa Ki Dal is a popular delicacy made with black urad dal, tomatoes, butter and cream. This simple Dal Makhani got a richer upgrade at ITC Bukhara and we got our legendary Dal Bukhara that has now found international acclaim too.  

Those wondering. Dal Bukhara has no connection to the city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan, in fact, it is highly unlikely to find a similar dish in the city. You may find different kinds of lentil stews, but nothing remotely as rich and creamy. The dal is named after the restaurant Bukhara situated in Delhi. The restaurant was introduced by Mr. Ajit Haksar – ITC hotels chairman, and he gave the charge of food and beverage to a Lucknow wedding caterer Imtiaz Qureshi, who was given a free hand to experiment with all kinds of Awadhi delicacies that the subcontinent was largely unaware of. 

While Imtiaz’s Lucknawi-style culinary gems grabbed much attention, the chef par excellence couldn’t take charge of Bukhara, which went to chef Madan Jaiswal, the creator of the legendary Dal Bukhara. Chef Madan didn’t know much about the Muslim Awadhi food, but he had pioneered the Hindu Tandoori cooking. It wouldn’t be wrong to call Dal Bukhara the sophisticated and refined cousin of Dal Makhani by Kundal Lal Gujral of Moti Mahal. The creamy, warm, velvety texture that leaves an indelible print in your hearts and mind, is courtesy- the slow-cooking. 

The Dal is cooked for hours on low flame, sometimes even overnight. Even the lentils are boiled multiple times and cooked to an extent where they reach a mashable consistency. Fresh butter, fresh tomatoes, Kasuri methi, Kashmiri red chilli powder, enhances the overall flavour and texture of the Dal making it perfect to be paired with roti or rice.  

While, no one knows the real recipe of Chef Madan’s Dal Bukhara, but something similar can definitely be attempted at home with this fabulous recipe. This dal is a labour of love, but the effort is so worth it.