Chanar Dalna – Homemade Bengali Cottage Cheese Curry

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Paneer is a household name in almost every Bengali family now. When it comes to having vegetarian platter a paneer preparation is always there; be it an occasion or just a simple dinner. But, even a decade back paneer was not that readily available.

The next best option was to make paneer at home. The paneer that is available in the market is processed and mixed with other binding agents like flour along with curdled milk to give it a tougher texture. The one that is made at home is softer and doesn’t have flour. This is called chana. Chana is milk curdled with lactic acid, like lemon juice and squeezed thoroughly to drain out the extra water.

Chana is the basic ingredient of almost all sweets that we eat, but if you are in a mood for something savoury to make with chana, chanar dalna is a very good option. Dalna is a type of Bengali curry with a rich and thick gravy unlike the ordinary jhol which is more watery.

To make the chana, all you need to do is boil about a litre/ quarter gallon of milk, it will give about 200gms/ 7 oz of chana. Once the milk starts rising pour in about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or about 1 tablespoon calcium lactate. The milk will start curdling – the solids will separate from water. Drain out the water using a cheese cloth. Squeeze the chana well to drain out any excess water. You can also hang it for about an hour before you start using it. If there is any extra water in the chana, the cubes will fall apart as you cook.

Chanar Dalna - Bengali Cheese Curry

Indian, Side, Cottage cheese, Chana, Chenna, Bengali curry
Cooks in    Serves 4
  • For the cubes -
  • 200 gms chana
  • 2 tablespoon chickpea powder/ besan
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon green chilli paste
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • For the dalna –
  • 1 medium sized potato, cut into square
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Knead the chana well till your palm start feeling oil, mix in all the ingredients excepting the oil and knead once again
  • Pat the chana to make a 1” thick square slab, cut into 1” cubes and let it rest for 5-10mins
  • Heat about a quarter cup of oil in a skillet and fry the cubes till lightly brown, place on a kitchen paper to drain out the excess water, reserve for later
  • Season the cubed potatoes with a pinch of salt and turmeric powder. In the same skillet add the cubed potatoes in the leftover oil and fry till they turn light brown, drain out the excess oil using a kitchen towel and reserve for later
  • Mix all the powdered spices for dalna excepting garam masala powder, pour in water to make a thick paste
  • Heat the mustard oil in a wok and put in the whole cumin seeds, as they start spluttering add the fried potatoes and pour in the spice paste mix well to coat all the potatoes. Stir till the color takes a little darker shade; turn the heat if you fear to burn the spices. Pour in about 1 ½ cup of water, season with salt
  • Cook covered for about 5-7minutes till the potatoes are well done. Put in the fried chana cubes and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  • Add the garam masala powder and ghee, if you are using and serve hot with warm white rice or chapatti.

Hot Tips – If you want more gravy in the dalna, then pour half cup more water. The chana cubes tend to absorb the water, so if you keep it for longer period, the gravy will dry out. You can cut the chana in any way you like, if you prefer diamond shape then go for it, or roll it between your palms to make small balls.

To curdle the milk, I prefer lemon juice as calcium lactate has a funny smell, and it doesn’t taste good when using the chana in curry.

More on chanar dalna from other blogs – Preoccupied’s take on the grandmom’s secret chanar dalna. Not exactly the typical Bengali recipe, here’s another way of preparing chanar dalna from Cookerefic.

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17 thoughts on “Chanar Dalna – Homemade Bengali Cottage Cheese Curry

  1. Wonderful recipe! Takes me back all the way to my nani-ji’s kitchen. I just had one question: how does the chhana become paneer? My nani-ji used to make a really wonderful saag paneer. How can we convert this chhanar dalna thing into saag paneer? I just love re-living those wonderful days with my nana and nani. I still go back to Kalkatta every year to recharge my Bengali cooking memories. Nothing like a samosas and tea to get right back that wonderful life. Jai Hind!

  2. I have never heard of this kind of chanar dalna…I’ll try it tomorrow for lunch…sounds yummy. I usually avoid chana because of the bland taste that it has. But this way…….will surely try it out tomorrow…

    1. The spices in the chana enhances the taste. Do let us know whether you liked it after cooking.

      1. Hi Sudeshna – I cooked Chanar Dalna yday for lunch n it was just delicious. The panir was completely different. I thought maybe it wouldn’t bind well but it did. Lovely lunch. Tku for the recipe.

    2. That’s because you were brought up in a saag paneer household. The other thought I have is that the majority of the 115 million Bengali residents of India prefer alu matar paneer to this low-down regional Chhanar Dalna thing and you just happen to be be one of those Saag Paneer/Alu Matar Paneer majority. Personally, it makes me so proud to be be Indian. Jai Saag Paneer! Jai Hind!

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