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Delhiwale: The novelty of Surinder Kumar’s matar dal

Surinder Kumar’s dishes carry the secret flavours of the Hindi heartland. The master of grand old cuisines from home kitchens shares a little-known recipe with us

delhi Updated: Feb 18, 2018 08:49 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Delhiwale,Dilliwale,Surinder Kumar
Surinder Kumar trained under Sunit Tandon’s grandmother Rajkumari in Lucknow.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Theatre person and former Doordarshan news reader Sunit Tandon has one of the largest collections of western classical music CDs in Delhi. Not many know, until now, that he surely also has one of the city’s best home cooks specialising in the authentic cuisine of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

If you ever plan a theft in Mr Tandon’s apartment in Safdarjung Enclave, skip his CDs and books and even the drawing room piano. Just steal the quiet Surinder Kumar. This gentleman will make you the city’s best UP-style arhar dal (with just that rumour-like hint of heeng). His sukhe aloo ki subzi is so deliciously addictive you would like to have the whole thing to yourself, rather than share it with guests.

His dishes seem to carry the secrets of domestic cuisines of the Hindi heartland. His dals and subzis evoke self-contained home kitchens that used to be run by matriarchs in comradeship with their loyal family cooks.

Indeed, the 60-something Mr Kumar trained under Mr Tandon’s grandmother Rajkumari in Lucknow. He arrived as a young man from a village in Faizabad to work with the Tandon family and has continued with them except for a few years in between when he opted to drive... trucks! He also lived in the then West Germany for a few years when Mr Tandon’s father was working in Bonn in the 1970s — presumably so that the Tandons could always have their UP khana in the land of sauerkraut.

Mr Kumar’s wife, children and grandchildren live back home in the village where he has built them a new house. An unassuming man, it’s difficult to get him to open up to us but he did mutter, “These days people are forgetting how to make food at home.” He then mourned about dishes that are becoming history. We coaxed him to name some of them:Kachnar ka raitaMandiyaBharwa TindeKhurchan wali DalJimikand ki Subzi Karonde aur Hari Mirch ki SubziSaag ArbiMatar ki DaalAnd today, Mr Kumar will make Matar Ki Daal, which in UP is also known as Nimona.


Half-a-kg peeled peas (no frozen peas please)
Red chilli power, to taste Salt, to taste
Turmeric powder
Two tbsp Garam masala
One tbsp Heeng powder, “naam ke liye” (just a hint)
Cumin seeds
One tbsp adrak paste
Half sprig green chillies, optional
Half a jug of water
Refined oil, one large spoon
Lemon, one
Green coriander leaves, a handful


Mash the peas to a paste-like consistency in the electric mixer.Heat a cooker on low fire.
Add oil and let it warm, should take just a few seconds.
Add cumin seeds.
Stir constantly as they crackle, and moments later add turmeric and heeng powder. Keep stirring for a few more moments.
Now add the green pea mash.
Mix well and stir.
Add garam masala powder, red chilly powder, ginger paste into the mixture.
Stir for about 10 minutes.
Now, gradually add water, and mix well.
Cover the cooker with its lid and turn off the gas after a single ‘seeti’ (whistle).
Open the cooker after a few minutes. Add coriander leaves and fresh lemon juice just before serving.
Goes well with rice.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 10:01 IST