This is a Gujarati dish usually made with the very long, pale green Indian squash known as “doodhi” or “ghiya.” Many Indian grocers sell it, but I find that chayote or sayote, the South American pear-shaped vegetable (also known as “cho cho,” “chow chow,” and “christophene”), or yellow squash make good substitutes. Gujaratis like their dal slightly sweet, which is how I have cooked it here. This may be a no-no in the north, but it is quite delicious! I love the Gujarati combination of sweet and hot. Gujaratis also like to use ghee to finish off their dals. All Indian stores sell it.

    Serve this with chapatis, whole-grain pita bread, or plain rice, and a vegetable and yogurt dish.

    SERVES 6

    • 1½ cups chana dal, washed in several changes of water and drained
    • 1 lb. piece of doodhi (ghiya) or 1 chayote or 1 medium yellow squash
    • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • 2 or more teaspoons jaggery (see note) or brown sugar, according to taste
    • 3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or olive or peanut oil
    • Generous pinch of ground asafetida
    • ½ teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
    • ½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    • 3 cloves
    • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
    • ¼–¾ teaspoon nice red chili powder

    1. Put the dal in a medium pan along with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skimming off the froth as it rises to the top. Do not let it boil over.

    2. Meanwhile, prepare your chosen vegetable. If using doodhi or chayote, peel and quarter it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1 × ½ inch pieces. If using squash, cut it in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces.

    3. Stir the turmeric into the boiling dal, then partially cover and cook for 1 hour. Add the salt, jaggery, or brown sugar, and your chosen vegetable. Stir and bring to a gentle simmer, then cover fully. Cook the doodhi and chayote for another 20 minutes, but the squash for just another 15 minutes. Uncover the pan while you complete the final step.

    4. Heat the ghee or oil in a small, preferably nonstick frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the asafetida and, a second later, the mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start to pop, in a matter of seconds, add the cumin seeds and cloves. Three seconds later, add the grated ginger, stir for 10–15 seconds, then mix in the chili powder. Tip the mixture immediately over the dal and cover quickly to trap the aromas. Stir and remove the cloves before serving.