Planning the Perfect Vaisakhi Menu + Dal Makhani Recipe

Like almost all Punjabi festivals, Vaisakhi is centred on family, food, and celebrations! The harvest festival celebrates the vast agricultural history of Punjab, and offers gratitude and thanks for the farmers that grow crops year after year. It also happens to be the birthday of the Khalsa Panth, a sacred part of Sikhism. But regardless of religious background it’s celebrated with dhol beats and bhangra throughout the region.punjabi thali pink chai livingOf course at the Pink Chai house we’ll take any excuse to celebrate over the dinner table, but Vaisakhi holds a very special place in my heart. Partly because of the religious connotations, and partly because of the connection it has to the traditional Punjabi lifestyle. This year I’m planning to serve a traditional Punjabi thali at my family’s Vaisakhi dinner, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my local Save-On-Foods store is now carrying pretty much everything I need for Indian dinners

During quieter seasons of my life, I enjoyed making multiple stops on grocery day, but these days convenience and saving time are key factors on shopping trips for me. That’s why a well-stocked South Asian foods section at my “mainstream” grocery store is such a treat! Not only do they carry a number of pre-packaged and convenience foods, my Save-On-Foods store (Nordel Way & 88 Ave in Surrey) also has a great variety of fresh sabzis. Finding really nice fresh bhindi, saag, and karela at the same grocery store where I buy our deli meat, kid’s school snacks, and day to day groceries – what’s not to love?DSC_8575punjabi thali pink chai living

Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing a series of recipes I’ve developed based on a traditional Punjabi thali, using products I found at Save-On-Foods. If you aren’t familiar with a thali – it’s a presentation of 4-5 sabzi and dal options, served alongside roti or parantha, and something sweet to end the meal. Every region of India has a thali of its own, and within Punjab there are multiple thali options. I’ve kept my thali fairly traditional and will be serving; Dal Makhani, Amritsari Choley, Shahi Paneer, alongside a basic wheat phulka (roti).DSC_8474

Let’s get the Vaisakhi dinner party rolling with a traditional Dal Makhani recipe.

Dal Makhani
Serves: 4

3/4 cup whole urad dal (black lentils) 1/3 cup rajma (kidney beans)
4 cups of water for cooking dal
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 green chili de-seeded and chopped – optional
2 teaspoons of ginger garlic paste
2 Roma tomatoes pureed
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 whole cloves
2 green cardamoms
2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red chili powder – optional
Salt – to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1 cup of lentil water (reserved)
1/3 cup of cream
2 tablespoons butter
Kasuri methi for garnish


1. Soak the dal and rajmah overnight. Then simmer in 4 cups of water on low heat with approximately 1 teaspoon of salt until soft. It can take 60-75 minutes for the lentils to soften. Check back regularly to make sure the water doesn’t dry out.
2. Once the dal and rajmah are cooked to a consistency you can easily mash with your fingers, drain the excess water leaving only about 2 cups of water in the dal.DSC_8479
3. Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a shallow pan.  Add in your whole spices: cumin seeds, whole cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf. Saute the spices for 90 seconds.
4.  Add the chopped onion to the butter and saute until golden brown (2-3 minutes). Add in the ginger garlic past and saute again for 60-90 seconds – keep the flame low so the garlic doesn’t burn.
5. Add the green chillies, tomato paste, red chilli powder, and nutmeg to the onion mixture and fry until the tomatoes are cooked and begin to pull away from the pan.
6. Once the onion and tomato mixture is fully cooked, add the cooked lentils and 2 cups of water to the same pan and combine. Simmer the mixture on low heat for 15-20 minutes. Keep stirring to ensure that the dal doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. You can also taste the dal now and add salt as needed.DSC_8554
7. Now that the dal is fully cooked and thickened, add the cream and mix well. Garnish with kasuri methi.
Serve warm with roti or rice.


This post is brought to you by Save-On-Foods. All opinions are my own. 


1 Comment

  1. January 27, 2020 / 7:01 pm

    amazing recipe.. a beautiful recipe by a beautiful lady..
    I am a food lover..
    I am addicted to exploring new food..
    I will definitely try this recipe…
    Hope this will go delicious.. well written..!!

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