Torka-Ruti and Loads of Nostalgia


I am still unpacking since we moved in to the rental apartment just a week ago, and in the process, discovering stuff that I had packed in Pune and forgotten. Each instance I open a bag, something or the other tumbles out like a hidden treasure. There I was yesterday, holding an old bottle of Calcium Sandoz and wondering what had I packed inside it so carefully. It wasn’t the calcium for sure as the bottle wasn’t mine and had already travelled once from home to Pune. As I gingerly opened it, little green pearls of whole green moong rustled inside. The only way I have eaten this ‘gota’ daal is in the form of a warm bowl of Torka and I have been calling it ‘Torka’r Daal’ since forever. Some use this green moong in ‘gotaseddho’ as I might have written earlier, or consume it simply at the restaurants as ‘mah ki daal’ or daal makhani. I haven’t. Torka invokes enough emotions within me to sustain a lifetime than trying those heavily spiced and creamed versions.

I believe it’s serendipity that I’ve been stumbling onto posts and pictures of the Bengali style Punjabi Daal Tadka all around the internet today, leading to this little post of mine. Since we’re dealing with nostalgia, here’s my two pence on Torka. This whole green gram (moong) is one of the richest lentils in iron, it contains about 1.4 mg iron per 100 g and is quite useful to people suffering from iron deficiency.

Almost everyone of my generation growing up in Bengal had an idea of what Torka was and how it was to be devoured. Initially, it came filled in a plastic bag, accompanied with rumali rotis or plain phulkas rolled in a newspaper, packed together from the local roadside eatery. As we kept growing up, the packaging of Torka-Ruti changed from plastic bags to aluminium foils to eventually the paper cartons used in takeaway restaurants. I’ve never delved into the origin or transformation of this item from Punjabi to Bengali. Like many others growing up around me, we believed Torka was ours, to be eaten piping hot with onions and green chillies, topped with egg bhurji to make it my favourite Dim Torka or minced/shredded meat to evolve into ‘Non-Veg Torka’. Some say the item was introduced in Calcutta by The Dhaba in Ballygunge. Others say it was modified and served at Dhabas on the highways to suit the palette of Punjabi truck drivers. Whatever the case might be, Torka-Ruti emerged as the quintessential item to be bought and eaten by – bachelors living alone, couples who didn’t cook, families where an emergency has occurred leaving no time to cook and married men who would enjoy it with a side of rum/country liquor when the wife was absent.

In addition to these, there are people like me who have rarely tasted the coveted gut-burning spicy Torka from the local dingy eatery in childhood. Since it had a reputation of being a “driver/drunkard’s food,” prepared in unhygienic conditions and being overtly spicy, having Torka-Ruti elsewhere was banned by my parents. Instead, they tried to cook it at home to their best capacities, adding egg or chicken to lure me into eating the less spicier version. It wasn’t bad, in fact, I was pretty well managed to eat the Torka at home obediently. I missed the warm and slightly elastic rumali roti, though.

With age and distance from Calcutta, comes the responsibility to cook your own Torka. It’s healthy, spicy, packed with protein and a very warming item in the winters. Here’s my version of Torka, although you will find numerous recipes online.

Ingredients – 

Whole green gram (gota moong daal) – 100 g
Matar/Chholar daal (yellow split pea) – 50 g
Tomatoes – 1, chopped
Onion – 1, chopped
Turmeric/red chilli/jeera powder, kasuri methi (1t), chopped green chillies
Ginger-garlic (grated), Salt, jeera, mustard oil
Coriander, for garnish

How to – 

Soak both the daal overnight. Boil in a pressure cooker until moderately soft and drain. Keep aside. Heat 1T mustard oil in a wok. Add a pinch of jeera, chopped onions and fry. Add the ginger garlic, saute a little, add tomatoes, salt and keep frying. When the tomatoes melt away, add turmeric, red chilli, jeera powder, 1t kasuri methi, a splash of water and fry well. Add the boiled daal, green chillies, sufficient water and boil. Cook in a simmering flame for 10-12 minutes until it separates the oil above. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with a salad of onion/cucumber/lime.

Do try the recipe and let me know if you like it. I love Torka-Ruti and hope you’ll love too. #BanglaKhabar

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