Thanks to a Sunday evening spent eating platefuls of homemade Indian curries and watching Ritash Batra’s charming The Lunchbox, I’m shifting gears this week to share one of my favorite meals, dal tadka. In India dal is both an ingredient—legumes such as split peas, beans or lentils—and a savory dish.
Regarding the dish, at least 60 types of dal exist. What differentiates each are the combination of legumes and spices, the cooking times and the final consistency. Some dals are soupy while others are thick and stew-like. In the case of dal tadka I’ve made and eaten both types.
A few years ago, while at the Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra, India, I came across what I dubbed “the ideal dal tadka.” Flavorful and filling, it possessed the perfect blend of aromatic spices and toothsome lentils. Direct-from-the-garden produce, including sweetly sour ginger, spicy green chilies and juicy, red tomatoes, balanced out the delightful dish.
I became so smitten with this dal tadka that the chef there ended up writing down the ingredients and steps and hand-delivering them to me. My version of dal tadka has been adapted from the Oberoi’s delightful recipe.
DELIGHTFUL DAL TADKA
Although it may require more than a few ingredients, dal tadka is still quite simple to make. Boil the lentils. Saute the onion, tomato, peppers and spices. Stir everything together with fresh lemon juice, chopped cilantro and dried chilies. Easy!
Serves 6 to 8
9 cups water
2 cups split pigeon peas (toor dal), chana dal or yellow lentils
1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped green chili pepper
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons granulated onion
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 to 6 dried red chilies
Generous handful of cilantro, chopped
Basmati rice, for serving
In a large sauce pan bring the lentils, turmeric, salt and water to a boil. Skim the foam off the top, cover the pan with a lid and simmer over medium-low for roughly 1 hour. When finished, the lentils will be soft. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
In a medium sauté pan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, chopped onion, ginger and green chilies. Saute until the onion browns and then add the tomato, granulated onion and ground cumin and sauté it for 1 minute. Add the lentils, lemon juice and chilies to the cooked onion-tomato (masala) mixture. Check and adjust the seasonings as needed. Finish the dish with chopped coriander. Serve with a side of basmati rice.