A classic Dal Tadka recipe just the way mom made it. A blend of three lentils is seasoned with a few simple spices for the most flavorful dal. A vegan, soy-free, nut-free and gluten-free recipe.
I get so busy innovating new recipes for Desi, Jay and you, that sometimes I forget all about the homeliest ones that can also be the most delicious. The recipes, you know, that mom made for dinner each week, or you ate at a friend’s home just once growing up and never forgot. Recipes like this Dal Tadka.
The name, “Dal Tadka,” does not describe a single dish: truth is, there probably are as many Dal Tadka recipes in Indian kitchens as there are cooks. And almost every Indian restaurant anywhere in the world has a version of its own.
A tadka is the tempering that most Indian recipes start or end with: you heat some oil, add a few spices, and add it to the food to magnify its deliciousness. Each cook has his or her own special tweaks and twists. Some use one kind of lentils, others use two or three or four. Some add tomatoes, others don’t. Some finish with a flourish of tangy mango powder or aamchur, others add a tiny amount of sugar for flavor. Some add garlic, some ginger, others both. The variations go on and on.
In our home, we love a good dal, and a Dal Tadka is one of those recipes that gets made more often than I will admit. There is absolutely nothing about this dish that you won’t love. It’s creamy and comforting, and has just that little bit of fire from the garlic and depth from the tomatoes. Top all of this amazing goodness with a tadka of coconut oil and mustard, and you have a recipe for comforting deliciousness. Better, you can have this dish from stove to table in no time at all, especially if you have a handy pressure cooker to cook the heck out of the lentils.
As Fall merges into winter, this is the one dish I know I can count on to warm my belly and put a glow in my heart.
- 1/2 cup tuvar dal, or split pigeon peas
- 1/2 cup masoor dal, or pink lentils
- 1/2 cup moong dal, or mung lentils
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafetida or hing (optional)
- 2 dry red chilies
- 4 large cloves of garlic, crushed into a paste or finely minced
- 1 large tomato, finely diced
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp aamchur or mango powder (this adds a special flavor, but if you absolutely don't have it, use 2 tbsp lemon juice)
- 2 tbsp coriander leaves minced
- Combine, wash and cook the lentils with the turmeric, preferably in a pressure cooker. If cooking on a stovetop, cover with an inch of water, bring to a boil, slap on a lid, keep on the lowest setting for the lentils to just simmer, and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are really soft and easily mushed up. Add more water during the cooking if necessary.
- In a saucepan, heat the oil.
- Add the mustard seeds, red chillies and asafetida.
- When the mustard seeds crackle and sputter, add the garlic and stir-fry until the garlic browns. Don't let it burn-- stir constantly.
- Add the tomato and cook for a few minutes or until the tomato breaks down.
- Add the lentils and water, if needed. You want the dal to be runny but not too watery. This is a matter of personal preference, though, so if you like your dals thick, feel free to use less water. Keep in mind that dals do thicken on standing.
- Bring the lentils to a boil and let them cook for a few minutes.
- Add the sugar and salt and aamchur and stir to mix.
- Add the coriander leaves, mix well, and turn off the heat.
- Serve hot with rice or parathas or roti.
This and that:
Favorite video of the week: I could watch this over and over and not stop crying. It makes me so proud to work every day with these amazing people who make a real difference to the lives of animals over the world.
Keeping my family in Chennai in my heart and thoughts, as the city wades through horrifying floods that have killed dozens and brought life to a standstill. Chennai is a city close to my heart, because it’s Desi’s hometown and also because it’s so full of life and spirit. I have spent many happy times there. As always with these disasters, animals also need help. Humane Society International is in Chennai helping stranded and destitute animals, so if you happen to be in Chennai and read this and know of animals that need help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have always been in love with Middle Eastern food, but this past weekend I have become even more obsessed after we ate an incredible feast at our friend Willis’s home, made by an Iraqi friend who is staying with him. If you see a lot more Middle Eastern recipes pop up in the future in this space, don’t be surprised. 🙂
A food movie I wanted to watch, and finally did only recently, was the Hundred-Foot Journey. Verdict: underwhelming, despite the great Helen Mirren. The only times I actually laughed or was even remotely touched was when Om Puri, one of India’s finest actors, was on the screen. It reminded me of another, older movie, Today’s Special with Madhur Jaffrey and Aasif Mandvi, but that one was far more watchable.
Took Jay last month to watch his first movie in a theater, Hotel Transylvania, and it was a priceless experience.
Favorite photo: You guessed it. After 13 years, I still can’t get over how beautiful this guy is (even overexposed and blurry) and he’s all mine :). When we walk, he loves to sit down on the piles of dry leaves that are everywhere in Fall. Here, Jay had all but buried him in leaves.
And let me take the chance to remind you I am on Instagram— a newbie still, but posting more regularly now. Catch you there!