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Manasollasa Dishes

For several years I have traditionally had an "Indian Dinner Night" for my Household at Pennsic. Usually it consists of my take on more modern Indian dishes, often with non-period ingredients left out, but for Pennsic 37 I decided to try my hand at redacting some recipes from the Manasollasa of King Somesvara, a 10th century treatise on how to live a "kingly life".

Lamb Battimakam

In another method, the raw meat is made into good paste and mixed with saffron, made into small balls and fried in deep hot oil. The meat is put inside the red hot coal and cooked intelligently till it is properly done; this item is called battimakam.
- Royal Life in Manasollasa, p. 122

3 lbs lamb
pinch (15-20 strands) saffron


  1. Soak saffron in 3 T warm water
  2. Grind lamb
  3. Put the lamb into a bowl and add the saffron. Work everything together thoroughly with your hands.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  5. Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or waxed paper and scoop out a teaspoon of the mixture.
  6. Roll to form a ball and place on the lined baking sheet. Have a bowl of cold water beside you to dampen your hands with; this helps them not get too sticky for rolling the meatballs.
  7. When you are ready to cook them, heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a frying pan. Line another baking sheet with kitchen towel, and when the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in batches without overcrowding the pan.
  8. Cook them for about a minute a side, or until golden brown all over.
  9. Place fried meatballs on skewers, in a grill pan, or on a close grid over coals until fully cooked.
This was by far one of the most well received dishes. I had prepared the meatballs ahead of time and then frozen them, uncooked, for transportation to Pennsic. They thawed a little more than I was comfortable with by the time we got our freezer up and running, so I ended up cooking them a little more thoroughly than I would have liked. Since we had access to a smoker, I put them in to smoke for about an hour after being fried in oil, which impareted a good flavor but dried them out quite a bit I will probably revise this recipe a little and try it again. 

Chicken Puryalakhya

It is stated that all birds should be cooked after removing the feathers from all parts of the body and cutting off the beak, feet and nails. Usually, the stomach is stuffed with some spices or other substances and cooked as desired, like the meat of the pig, sheep and other animals. - Royal Life in Manasollasa, p.124

Yet in another style the meat is cut into pieces like amla (Indian gooseberry) fruit and placed in water of ajika (?) along with adraka (ginger) and boiled; then sothi, sour substances, salt, powder of methi (fenugreek) and dhanyaka (coriander powder), and green dhanyaka (cilantro leaves) are added and cooked well. Then, removed from fire mended well by adding ghee, garlic and hingu and closed with lid for sometimes then served. This item is called puryalakhya. - Royal Life in Manasollasa, p.120

2 lbs white meat chicken
1 T minced ginger
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 t dried ginger powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t fenugreek powder
1/2 t coriander powder
small handful cilantro (chopped)
3 T ghee
1 t minced garlic
1/8 t asafoetida


  1. Cut chicken in to 1 inch chunks
  2. Place chicken in water to cover. Add ginger and bring to a boil.
  3. Add lime juice, ginger powder, salt, fenugreek powder, coriander powder, and cilantro.
  4. Simmer 15 min.
  5. When chicken is cooked, add ghee, garlic and asafoetida, simmer 30 min.

I was a little nervous about serving this dish, as I personally have a hard time dealing with the smell of asafoetida, and although it "cooks out" well, some part of my brain kept having "ghost scents" whenever I was near the chicken. However everyone loved it, and kept saying it was really good. I had prepared it before Pennsic and then frozen it, and it did reheat quite well. Ideally, this could simmer for a longer period of time, until most of the water had evaporated and a thicker gravy was formed.


the red gram, chana, black gram, green gram, masoore, rajamadgara, rajma, full or broken as per choice. An expert cook grinds the pulses into pieces, removes the husk with the help of winnowing fan, puts it in water to remove the dust and then cooks on slow fire; finally hingu (asafoetida) water is poured on it. In order to give it (dal) colour rajani powder (turmeric) is added to. While cooking the pulses, water should be poured again and again stirring it; salt is to be added as per taste at the end. Plesent (sic) smell, smoothness, good taste and lightness are added to the food on account of pulses cooked thus.

Pulses as a whole are cooked without adding haridra powder but only by adding hingu water. A good cook prepares other pulses as described earlier washing again and again and cooks with equal amount of water on slow fire and adds hingu water and spreads the pieces of ginger on the top. p. 114-115

2 cups dried red dal (any dal will work)
2 cups water
1/8 t asafoetida
1/8 t turmeric
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

Rinse dal; soak in 3 cups water for 30 minutes.
Heat dal and water until boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 15 to 20 minutes, until tender and thickened.
Add asafoetida, turmeric and a little more water. Cook 20 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste

Lentils. Pretty easy. These were made ahead of time and frozen, which worked very well. Unlike with the chicken, I didn't find myself bothered by the asafoetida in this.
Later Trials
6/16/09 - Added asafoetida to about 3 T water first, and then added water to dal, allowing some of the asafoetida solids to stay in the bottom. Doubled turmeric.

Vestika & Dhosaka

The gram of harimanyam (chick-pea) is made into pieces and mixed with hingu (asafoetida), jeera (cumin), salt, ginger and haricha (no clue...could be typo of haridra/turmeric or could be something else. Sanskrit dictionary also gives haricandan, which is a type of sandalwood) ; mended well and made into a lump. The small balls made out of it are cooked on pan, it is called vestika (eatable). The broken gram is also mixed with the above items and the mixture is spread on hot pan along with oil; this is called dhosaka. - Royal Life in Manasollasa, p. 116

2 cups chana dal
2 cups water
cumin powder
pepper (?)


  1. Soak dal in water for 30 minutes
  2. Grind dal & water in food processor until it is a fine paste
  3. Add spices
  4. Add water until it has a consistency thinner than pancake batter (think crepes)
  5. Oil a large fry pan and fry dollops of batter (about 6-9 inches in diameter)

Unfortunately this recipe ended up being a bit of a failure. I couldn't tell if I wasn't using enough oil in the pan, but the dhosaka kept sticking to the tawa (griddle) in a way that was simply impossible to remove. I'll definitely be trying this one again in the future.

Fried Chhena Mithai

In another method, good milk is added to sour juice and the split milk is tied with a white cloth; when the water is strained, ilachi (cardamom) and sugar are added to the condensed mass, mashed and blended into a smooth lump. Small balls in the size of ripen bimba fruits are made out of it, fried and eaten. - Royal Life in Manasollasa, p. 128

1 gallon whole milk
juice of 4 limes
cardamom powder


  1. Bring the milk to a boil in a pan, stirring continuously.
  2. Remove from the fire and stir for 5 to 7 minutes till the milk is slightly cool.
  3. Add lime juice in drips and stir the milk gently until the milk curdles and the whey separates. The whey has to be clear thus indicating the milk has completely curdled. Allow it to rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Strain out all the whey using a clean damp muslin cloth.
  5. Fold all the 4 sides of the muslin cloth and twirl it gently so that all the whey that is in the milk solids gets evenly drained out.
  6. Gather the cloth from all 4 sides and squeeze the chenna lightly about 3 to 4 times so that most of the whey gets drained out.
  7. Remove the chenna onto a clean plate and knead sugar and cardamom in gently so that it is free of lumps.
  8. Add cardamom powder and sugar until cheese has a light, sweet taste.
  9. Roll chenna in to small balls 1” in diameter.
  10. Coat shallow pan with oil and fry balls.

Points to remember :
Make sure that the milk is lukewarm while adding the lime juice mixture. Do not shock hot milk as it will affect the quality of the chenna.
Always use cow’s milk for making chenna as it has a low fat content.
If you use buffalo’s milk, let the milk rest after boiling it and then discard the skin that is formed.
Always use fresh chenna for making rasgullas.


 In the middle of the meal, the king should take well cooked payasam made of rice, milk, sugar; - Royal Life in Manasollasa, p. 128

Rice - 1 cup
Thick milk - 10 cups
Sugar - 1 cup


  1. Boil milk in a heavy vessel with 2 to 3 cups of water. Take half the milk in separate vessel.
  2. Add washed rice to the boiling milk and cook for 5 to 10 minutes stirring once in a while.
  3. Add rest of the milk gradually, stirring constantly.
  4. When the rice is cooked till soft and mashed well, add sugar and stir till it is dissolved.
  5. Remove from fire and allow to cool before serving.