Indian Dal lentil curry is outrageously delicious. Dal is probably the most essential staple dish in Indian cuisine. And itÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬Ã¢âÂ¢s one of the most magical and economical foods in the whole world. There are countless variations of Dal all across India. Every household has their favorite, different regions use varying methods and spices, sometimes itÃÂ¢Ã¢âÂ¬Ã¢âÂ¢s served as a meal, sometimes as a side. This dal is a common variation of yellow dal found in northern India called dal tadka (aka dal tarka) that is the most common version served at Indian restaurants. Tadka refers to a garnish of spices tempered in hot oil that is poured over the cooked dal at the last moment to add a deliciously nutty aroma and flavor bump to the Dal. The tadka is completely optional, as the dal in this recipe is still full of flavor on its own.
This recipe calls for Channa Dal which is a type of yellow lentils which provides an ideal texture for this Dal.
Soak Lentils: 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, turmeric 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.
Pour over Tadka, if using, and stir through.
Serve Dal over rice, garnished with a sprig of coriander if desired.
Tadka or Sizzling Spices (optional):
Heat ghee in a small pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
Add cumin and mustard seeds, stir until cumin is slightly golden.
Then add chillies and cook for 20 seconds, then add eschallots and cook until tinged with gold. Don't let the spices burn!
Immediately pour into Dal.
Ghee is clarified butter and it is the main fat used in Indian cooking. Otherwise, use equal parts butter + vegetable oil.
Curry leaves really add an extra something to curries.
Any yellow dal such as channa dal, toor dal or moong dal can be used in this recipe.
If you cannot get hold of chana dal, yellow split peas are a terrific substitution but only use 3 cups of water and cook for 40 minutes covered and 30 minutes uncovered.
For toor dal, only use 3 cups of water and cook per recipe times.
You will miss some of the luxurious richness if you cut down on fat but you can reduce slightly if desired.
Dal will thicken after cooking. Stop the cooking just before what you think is the ideal consistency, and it will be just right by the time you serve. If reheating the next day, add some water to loosen the dal.
This recipe feeds 3 very generously, or 4 normal servings.
Be really careful making the tadka, as it can burn the spices. It is better to have oil that is not hot enough and then turn up the heat, than oil that is too hot to start with.