Do you think it’s impossible to make a Dal like Indian restaurants without hunting down exotic spices? Think again ! Full of flavor, economical and nutritious, this Dahl Indian lentil curry is outrageously delicious. And it’s easy!
Dal, dahl, dahl or dhal!
OK, so we may never agree on the spelling, but I think we can all agree that Dahl is one of the most fabulous transformations of the humble lens!
Dal is probably the most essential staple in Indian cuisine. And it is one of the most magical and economical foods in the world. A handful of lentils, a few spices and just a little TLC turns into a pot of nutritious goodness and gets your taste buds dancing.
About this Dal
There are countless variations of Dal all over India. Each household has their favorite dish, different regions use different methods and spices, sometimes it is served as a meal, sometimes as a side dish.
This dal is a common variant of the yellow dal found in northern India called dal tadka (aka dal tarka) which is the most common version served in Indian restaurants here in Australia. “Tadka” refers to a garnish of spices tempered in hot oil which is poured over the cooked dal at the last moment to add a deliciously nutty aroma and flavor to the dal. The tadka is completely optional, as the dal in this recipe is always full of flavor on its own.
KEY INGREDIENTS OF DAL
The best lenses for Dal– This recipe calls for Channa Dal which is a type of yellow lentil that provides an ideal texture for this Dahl. I was surprised to find that it is sold at Coles supermarket (international section). Yellow split peas are a great substitution although cooking times differ (see recipe notes).
Other lenses can also be used – see notes for instructions and notes on other types of lenses.
Dal Spices– Dal is made with far fewer spices than most Indian curries! This recipe calls for a simple combination of cumin, garam masala and turmeric. Garam masala is a spice blend found in supermarkets these days – it’s like a more potent curry powder.
curry leaves– Whether fresh or dried, they really add that extra something to the Dal! They are sold in the fresh herbs section of supermarkets and in the dried herbs and spices section.
Tadka spices– As mentioned above, the hot oil spice is optional, but if I’m doing it for business, I highly recommend it, even for the dramatic moment when the sizzling oil hits the Dahl (watch the video!) .
Tadka is made from cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and dried red chillies. You will probably need to find an Indian or other ethnic grocery store to find black mustard seeds. but don’t worry if you can’t find them. The dominant flavor of Tadka is that of cumin seeds. I wouldn’t even care if you didn’t have dried chilies.
There is a reason why Dal is the most prepared dish in all of India.
1.4 billion Indians can’t be wrong. Law? 😂 –Nagi x
PS. Try it with this good homemade Naan or this easy versatile dish cake. Yessss!!!!
WORLD’S MORE GREAT CURRYS!
SIDES AND THINGS FOR DAL
Dal (Indian lentil curry)
Preperation: 15 minutes
To cook: 1 time 30 minutes
Soaking: 1 time
Total: 1 time 45 minutes
Servings3 – 4 people
Tap or hover to scale
Video recipe below. There are countless variations of Dal all over India. This is a North Indian version called “dal tadka” which is similar to what is served in Indian restaurants. “Tadka” refers to the spices sizzling in hot oil poured over the dal. It’s dramatic and gives it a kick of flavor – but it’s optional. I include it for company and leave it out for midweek or if served with other punch flavored curries. The heat level in this recipe is mild – just a tickle. If you like it spicy, try leaving the seeds in the chilies and/or adding chili powder. This is a tasty dal to have as a main course!
Soak the lentils: Rinse the lentils and soak them in plenty of water for 1 hour. Drain in a colander.
Heat the ghee/oil in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Add the green chiles and fry for a minute until they start to bubble.
Add the onions and sauté until softened.
Reduce heat to medium, add garlic, ginger and curry leaves. Cook for 1 minute until the garlic starts to brown and smells good.
Add tomatoes and cumin, cook until tomatoes begin to break down and thicken into a paste – about 2 minutes.
Add lentils, water, turmeric and salt. Stir, bring to a boil, 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 occasionally. The dal is ready when it has a porridge-like consistency – some lentils should be intact but some have broken down to thicken the sauce.
Stir in the garam masala at the end. Adjust the salt if desired.
Pour over Tadka, if using, and stir.
Serve Dal over rice, garnished with a sprig of cilantro if desired.
Tadka – Sizzling spices (optional)
Heat the ghee in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
Add the cumin and mustard seeds, stir until the cumin is lightly browned.
Then add the chiles and cook for 20 seconds, then add the shallots and cook until golden brown. Don’t let the spices burn!
Immediately pour into Dahl.
2. The green peppers sold in supermarkets in Australia are green cayenne peppers.
3. Curry leaves really add that extra something to curries. Find them in the fresh herb section of Australian supermarkets or find them dried in the dried herbs and spices section.
4. LENTILS: I use chana dal here for its shape and texture – sold in the international section of some Coles supermarkets. Any yellow dal like channa dal, toor dal or moong dal can be used in this recipe.
If you can’t get your hands on chana dal, yellow split peas are a great substitution but use only 3 cups of water and cook for 40 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.
For toor daluse only 3 cups of water and cook per recipe.
All other lenses – follow the instructions above for the yellow split peas, then at the end of the cooking time you may need to add more water and/or cook longer.
This recipe is not suitable for puye lenses, or other tiny lenses. Anything in the shape of yellow split peas should work.
5. Schallots are small onions that are thinner than normal onions. The white part of the green onions/scallions/shallots will be fine, or even 1/4 of a normal onion.
6. GENERAL REMARKS:
*Fat Levels – You’ll miss out on some of the luxurious richness if you cut back on your fat intake, but you can cut back slightly if you want.
* The dal will thicken after cooking. Stop cooking just before what you think is the ideal consistency, and it will be perfect when served. If reheating the next day, add a little water to loosen the dal.
* Dal gets FULL!!! This recipe feeds 3 very generously, or 4 normal servings.
* Be very careful when preparing tadka, as the spices are easy to burn. It is better to have oil that is not hot enough and then increase the heat, than oil that is too hot to start with.
7. Recipe Source: This recipe is another effort from the RecipeTin family. We referenced a number of authentic sources, distilling the best elements into our recipe to achieve the closest possible replica of the Dahl we love in Indian restaurants. Famous Indian chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s dal tadka was one source, as was a recipe we found from Rick Stein and his travels through India. A few Youtube videos of home cooks in India also helped us master the tadka technique (after burning the spices and smoking ourselves out of the kitchen several times – read the notes and learn from us!) We hope you enjoy this dal as much as us.
8. Nutrition per serving, dal only, assuming 4 servings.
calories: 310callus (16%)
WATCH HOW TO DO IT
He thought all his Christmases had come at once when a box of groceries tipped over in the car…until he realized it was just full of vegetables!!