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 recipe, and a Dal Tadka is one 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.