I have an abiding admiration for and a bit of an obsession with Indian cuisine. I find the complexity of the spices and the aromatics absolutely intoxicating. On any given day I would happily choose a hearty, fragrant bowl of Indian spiced dal for any meal, including breakfast!
Dal, or dhal is a dried pulse (lentil, pea or various types of bean) which has been split. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t realize just how many varieties and types of these pulses there are–each with its own characteristic texture and flavor.
At the store’s freezer section one day, I read the ingredients on a box of Amy’s Vegetable Korma and was stunned to find listed several different types of dal I have never heard of. I just had to make a visit to my local Indian grocery to investigate. I brought home several bags of different colors and types of lentils and split peas and beans.
Next stop, the library. I gathered as many Indian cookbooks as I could manage and dove right into the lentils and beans chapters. One book that stands out as offering the most accessible, easy-to-prepare dal recipes turned out to be
Here is one of several recipes I have prepared from this book (with slight modification) and the journey continues!
Black Gram and Bengal Gram Dal (derived from a recipe by Madhu Gadia)
*3/4 cup urad dal (split, hulled)
*1/4 cup chana dal (split, hulled)
7 cups water (I used only 5 cups, for a more stew-like consistency)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
*1/4 tsp. asafetida powder (hing)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 cup onion, finely chopped
2 tsp. garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
*These items may be hard (or impossible) to find at your local grocery, so if you don’t have an Indian grocer nearby you can find everything you need on amazon.com. However, it will be way less expensive if you can find a local resource.
I prepared on the stove, but the original recipe gives directions for either stovetop or pressure cooker.
First, wash the lentils in 3 to 4 changes of water. Really wash them well, until the water is clear if possible. Drain and cover with water and allow to soak for at least 2 hours.
Drain lentils and add with water and salt to saucepan and bring to boil, skimming off any foam that collects on the top. Add turmeric, then cover and cook on low, until soft, about 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, gather the aromatics and seasonings.
Heat the oil on medium high and add asafetida followed by the cumin seeds. Allow to sizzle, stirring for a few seconds, then add the onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, coriander and cayenne then fry for a few seconds until soft.
Combine the seasonings and the cooked dal in the same pot and stir gently until well combined. Heat through to serving temperature. Continue to cook, uncovered on low heat for a thicker consistency. Check for salt before serving. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
This dal has a hearty, yet creamy texture. The flavor is rich and savory. Just delicious!