Although its name suggests royalty, a Panchmel or Panchratna Dal, native to the Indian state of Rajasthan and made with five kinds of lentils, is an easy enough dish to cook up for a weeknight. It's extremely nutritious and delicious and it's also vegan, soy-free, nut-free and gluten-free.
A Panchmel Dal starts out by being special enough because it's a confluence of five lentils--five jewels, according to the other name it goes by, Panchratna Dal.
But what makes it even more exquisite is that this thoughtful blend of lentils, each with a personality of its own, makes a dal that is richly textured and flavored, as well as innately healthy.
Let me add one rider here: in Rajasthan, the beautiful western Indian state where it originates from, this dal is not necessarily healthy. Healthier, perhaps, than other foods made here--this is a land known for its fried foods like kachori and its voracious use of ghee in just about everything. And ghee finds its way, in oodles, into a Panchmel Dal as well.
But take out most of that fat, replace some of it with vegetable oil, and what you're left with is a tasty, nutritious dish you could eat any day of the year and feel good about.
The five lentils that go in this dish are toor or tuvar dal (split pigeon peas), urad dal (blackgram dal), chana dal (split chickpeas), masoor dal (pink lentils) and moong dal (the split, skinned, yellow mung bean).
I usually don't soak lentils if I am pressure cooking them, or if I am cooking them in the Instant Pot. But if you plan to do this on the stovetop, in a saucepan, it's a good idea to soak them for a couple of hours or even overnight to reduce cooking time.
You will need 10 minutes on high pressure in an Instant Pot. Wash the lentils and cover them with at least two to three inches of water. If you use an Indian style pressure cooker that whistles, cook the dals for four whistles.
Yes! Any lentil would taste great with the spices that go into this dal, and if you don't have all five you can certainly just use one or two or three or four. Just make sure you increase the proportion of the dals accordingly. I used a total of 1 ¼th cups of lentils in this recipe--¼th cup of each kind.
Rajasthani Panchmel Dal
- ¼ cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
- ¼ cup urad dal (blackgram lentils, the skinned white ones are best for this)
- ¼ cup chana dal (bengalgram dal)
- ¼ cup masoor dal (pink lentils)
- ¼ cup moong dal
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 2 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 dry red chili peppers (break into two. You can skip these and add cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste. If using cayenne, add it with the other ground spices)
- 1 medium onion (finely diced)
- 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (use less or more based on your taste)
- 2 tomatoes (diced)
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (green cardamom)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika (optional)
- 2 tsp garam masala
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped)
- Cook the dal with the bay leaves, if using, until really soft. In an Instant Pot pressure cook on high pressure for 10 minutes and do a manual release after 10 minutes or let the pressure release naturally. In an Indian-style pressure cooker, cook for four whistles of the pressure regulator. Make sure you cover the lentils with 2-3 inches of water at least before pressure cooking.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan or dutch oven. Add the mustard and once it sputters, add the red chili peppers.
- Next add the onions and saute them for about five minutes over medium-high heat or until they brown. Add some salt to help them along.
- Add the ginger-garlic paste, stir fry for a few seconds, then add tomatoes and mix them in.
- Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cardamom powders and the Kashmiri red chili powder or the paprika, if using. Saute for a minute to mix. Put a lid on the pot and let the tomatoes cook down until pulpy and soft.
- Add the cooked lentils to the pot with any cooking water and stir to mix well.
- Add water if necessary to thin the dal out to your liking. Bring it to a boil, lower the flame and let it simmer around 10 minutes so all the flavors merge. Sprinkle on the garam masala--start with less and add more per your taste.
- Add salt as needed and garnish with cilantro. Serve hot.
Love this Panchmel Dal? Check out other recipes from Rajasthan on Holy Cow!