We are smack in the middle of Ramadan, and dahi barays – I know, I know, grammatically incorrect – are one of our favorite iftaari dishes. They are basically fried dumplings made out of besan (chickpea/gram flour) in a thin yogurt sauce. You can also make them with lentils but Shan has made it clear he doesn’t like those, and although I haven’t tried them they sound too heavy whereas these puff up into light, fluffy clouds.
A few little tricks
- After frying and draining, dunk the barays in water for about a minute then gently squeeze them out before transferring to the yogurt mixture. Some people skip this step but it makes sure they are nice and soft. From what I’ve gathered, the Pakistani food circuit is brutal; you don’t want people gossiping about your crunchy barays.
- Also, thin the yogurt with almost more water than you are comfortable with – the barays will soak up quite a bit so you need to overcompensate so it doesn’t dry up.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start dropping the batter. These are not hard to make, and they have come out perfectly for me every time except once. I had just gotten off an angry phone call and was storming around the kitchen, flailing and ranting while I threw this together, and distractedly dropped them too early in the still-heating oil. We ended up with sad little lumps in watery yogurt. And sad little lumps is what happens when I cook angry, so I have since resolved to take a few cleansing breathes and calm the eff down instead of messing up my food.
- I usually just sprinkle these with chaat masala, but I’ve seen them drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney too, which looks so pretty. I’m going to do that for our upcoming iftaar party, because presentation is everything.
Adapted from Dahi Baray by Chef Zakir
For the yogurt mixture
- One heaping cup yogurt
- 2 tsp (or to taste) red chili
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp chaat masala (more for garnish)
- Salt to taste
- tamarind chutney (optional)
For the barays
- 1/2 cups besan
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- Salt and red chili to taste (about a tsp of each)
- Oil for frying (an inch in a pan is fine)
In a large bowl, whip yogurt together with red chili, sugar, chaat masala and salt. Add water to make a very thin sauce. If you aren’t trying to impress anyone you can serve from this bowl, or you can pour two thirds into a large shallow dish and set the rest aside to pour over at the end.
Combine besan, baking soda, salt and red chili, stirring well so there are no lumps. Add enough water to make a thick batter. Have a paper towel-lined plate and a large bowl of water ready.
Heat oil. Fry in batches by dropping spoons of batter into the oil – they should immediately puff up. They only take a minute or so on each side to fry, so once you finish dropping the first round of batter you can go back around and flip them (I use two spoons or a spoon and a fork to flip). Remove to the paper towel-lined plate for a minute or so, dunk in water for a minute, then gently squeeze them out and transfer to the yogurt mixture (either in the bowl or the shallow dish).
Continue frying in batches until all the batter is used up. To serve, pour the rest of the yogurt on top (if applicable), sprinkle with chaat masala and drizzle with tamarind chutney.