It's hard to find a Londoner who doesn't love Dishoom, and equally a Dishoom fan who doesn't rave about its black daal (and probably the okra fries too). It's a cosy and nourishing bowl of warmth based on the daal makhan that is perhaps Dishoom's signature recipe.
Dishoom was launched in 2010 and has been undeniably revolutionary in transforming the standards of affordable Indian food and its perception in the UK. It all started in 2008 with founders Shamil and Kavi Thakrar, who wanted to change the representation of Indian culture in British life, which Samil believed had become tired and cliched. With this goal in mind, Dishoom was conceived, a restaurant that would pay homage to the Irani cafe from 20th century Bombay – a lesser-known facet of Indian culture synonymous with diversity, cosmopolitanism and cultural blending.
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The immersive brilliance of Dishoom's restaurants and the quality of the food served paved the route for Dishooms cult success, voted as Yelp's Best Place to Eat in the UK in 2016. It's now a nine-strong force of restaurants that also offer Deliveroo takeaway, with sites in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and most recently, Birmingham. The empire extends beyond satiating diners with Parsi power breakfasts, soft roti rolls and fragrant biryanis – there's the Dishoom online store too. From Dishoom's own crockery collection, incense, chai, chutneys, naan roll meal kits and even an IPA, the ventures of this Irani cafe seem unstoppable.
Since Dishoom's beginning, one thing hasn't changed: the black daal. It's still the first thing Chef Naved checks on entering any of the kitchens, where each batch is lovingly cooked over 24 hours. Luckily this recipe doesn't require quite so much time, and comes together in around 4-5 hours to produce a richly rewarding bowl of daal. Once you've made the recipe, it's something you'll be cooking on repeat.
The secret to cooking a great daal isn't necessarily about exact timings but knowing what to look for at each stage. It is vital to cook the daal grains completely during step five. It takes quite a long time for the "sauce" to thicken and become creamy – you must watch the pan very closely and stir frequently to ensure it doesn't stick.