At the Akal truck stop in Laramie, Wyoming, the Indian food that Mintu Pandher and his staff are cooking up in a small kitchen attracts truckers and locals from miles around, with food they can't find anywhere else along Interstate 80.
Turns out there's money in all those smells of tumeric, coriander, and other spices rarely used in truck stop cuisine: his cafe is a hit, especially with the changing face of trucking, since nearly 19% of long-haul truck drivers in America are now immigrants.
Pandher shared one of his recipes with "Sunday Morning":
Dal (Lentil Curry)
Recipe by Mintu Pandher
2 tbsp ghee, or 1 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp butter
2 green cayenne chillies, deseeded and cut into chunks (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (brown or yellow)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped (3/5")
8 fresh curry leaves, or 6 dried
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup dried chana dal, yellow split peas or other yellow lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/8 tsp garam marsala
3/4 tsp salt
Fresh coriander/cilantro sprigs (optional)
Steamed basmati rice
- Rinse lentils and leave to soak in plenty of water for 1 hour. Drain in colander.
- Heat ghee/oil in a heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Add green chillies and fry for a minute until starting to blister.
- Add onions and fry until softened.
- Lower heat to medium; add garlic, ginger and curry leaves. Cook for 1 minute until garlic starts to turn golden and smells amazing.
- Add tomatoes and cumin; cook until tomatoes start to break down and thicken to a paste (about 2 minutes).
- Add lentils, water, tumeric and salt. Stir, bring to simmer, cover and simmer gently for 1 hour. Stir two or three times during the hour.
- Remove lid and simmer gently for 30 minutes to thicken, stirring every now and then. The dal is ready when it has a consistency like porridge – some lentils should be intact, but some have broken down to thicken the sauce.
- Stir through garam masala at the end. Adjust salt if desired.
- Serve Dal over rice, garnished with a sprig of coriander if desired.
For more info:
- Akal Travel Center, I-80. Laramie, Wyo.