Fat-free dal with green masala: Of things and thongs!

“Why does this hairband have two holes in it? Like who even wears two plaits any more?” I ask, completely puzzled by this black rubber-band kind of thing that I pick up from the counter in a fashionable clothing store. There’s a little counter next to the billing counters which sells assorted stuff like hair clips and funky bangles and things you are tempted to pick up as you wait for your turn at the till.

I also think I’m being uber-cool by knowing that no one wears two pinnals (plaits/chotis/jadalu) any more!

The guy who owns the store, a bright young entrepreneur whom I’ve seen from the time he started his clothing business in a real hole-in-the-wall shop, turns beet red with embarrassment and goes, “erm… ummm… er… ma’am, actually… errr!”

I’m still examining the little elasticized scrap from various angles, wondering how I could get around my pony tail and don’t notice his embarrassment – not the brightest button in the box, are we?

But something  in his voice gets through! I look up to find him almost squirming and casting agonised glances for help at his  lady assistant – who is positively doubled over with laughter at his discomfiture – and my ignorance!

He must have wondered later whether he should put up a sign outside his shop saying ladies over fifty not welcome! But he is a very sweet guy and quietly makes an exit leaving his assistant to explain to this lady that ahem, that thing is a thong and not meant to be worn over the hair but rather over the nether ends!

Holy c…, i think to myself, compounding the assistant’s amusement by whispering, “People actually wear this?? Isn’t it uncomfortable??”

Now every time the owner of the shop sees me, he manages to appear very busy elsewhere, just in case this… this aunty-ji should pick up any more puzzling products from his counters!

This foot-in-mouth disease infects all age groups – from five to a hundred, i think!

As happened to a friend of mine, shopping for ladies’ stuff, was asked by her five-year old, who had just learned to read, and was practising his reading skills by reading out aloud the names of products in a supermarket aisle… “Mummy, why don’t you buy this packet? It says ‘belt free’ along with it. Anyway I need a belt, no?“!!

Or another friend’s daughter, who asked the billing clerk, “Where’s my free cholesterol?”

The lady looks puzzled. The six-year old ( a very bright six-year old who could read the word cholesterol!), picks up a packet of cooking oil and points at it, “See, it says right here – “cholesterol – free”!

For most of us, Indian cooking, particularly the dals, have to be tempered with asli ghee to really have that certain je-ne-sais-quoi taste! But out of the mouths of six-year old babies, it is good to learn how to go cholesterol free… like with this fat-free dal.


  • Cooked toor dal (cooked with a pinch of tumeric) – 2 cups
  • Coriander leaves – 3 tbsp
  • Mint leaves – 3 tbsp
  • Grated coconut – 1 tbsp
  • Green chilies – 1
  • Garlic – 1 flake – optional
  • Sugar – 1 pinch
  • Cumin seeds/jeera powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Green gram sprouts – a handful
  • Steamed carrots, peas, beas and cabbage – 1 cup
  • Salt

Make a puree of mint, coriander, cumin, green chili and coconut. You could make a larger batch and freeze the paste in idli trays. Once frozen, remove the “idlis” into a ziplock bag and store for several weeks. Take out one or two whenever you need to add flavour and reduce cholesterol!

Add to the cooked dal along with salt and bring to the boil.

Add vegetables and sprouts and simmer for just 2-3 minutes more – the sprouts should cook but retain a crunch.

Switch off and serve with rice/rotis with lime juice squeezed over at the top as you serve. Mixing in the lime juice earlier will result in loss of nutritive value.

There you have it – zero-fat, will allow you to wear a thong thing-on-your-head dish!