Dal Tadka, also known as dal fry, is an essential meal in the day-to-day life of any Indian and Nepalese family. I grew up eating dal the way American kids grow up eating mac n’ cheese. Dal usually refers to a thick lentil stew and is common in India, Nepal, Srilanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It is often eaten with steamed rice, roti (Indian bread) and vegetables. Dal is made with different kinds of lentils depending on which area of India you are in, ranging in color from yellow to red-orange to green, brown and black.
I personally like Dal tadka. After eating this dish for at least 10 – 15 years, I still crave it. Tadka (tempering), means adding aromatic spices to ghee (clarified butter) or any cooking oil, and then adding it to the dal, and frequently finishing it with fresh finely chopped coriander (also known as cilantro). I prefer ghee to other cooking oils because it has such a rich and unique flavor. The thing I like best about dal is that is it really versatile. You can eat it with rice, bread, or even drink it like soup. Add some diced vegetables like carrots, peas, cauliflower, potatoes, or anything else you have on hand.
I love making this dish, as it’s really simple and easy. To make dal, just soak some lentils in cold water, with a pinch of salt, from 1 hour to overnight, depending on the type of lentil you are using and its size. Like chick peas, black lentils need to be soaked overnight. Be sure to change the water before you cook the lentils. Using any deep dish, cook the lentils (and vegetables if you choose) in water until they are nice and tender, usually from 30 – 60 minutes, or you can use a pressure cooker for just 10 – 15 minutes.
Try this recipe for an authentic Dal Tadka
|1 cup||Toor Daal or masoor dal/red lentils|
|1 pinch||Tumeric Powder|
|1/2||Juice of 1/2 a lemon|
|1/4 cup||Onion, chopped fine|
|3 cloves (opt)||Garlic, crushed (opt)|
|1 tsp (opt)||Jeera / Cumin Seeds, crushed (opt)|
|3 to 4||Dry Red Chilies, halved|
|1/4 tsp||Mustard Seeds|
|2 tsp||Ghee or Cooking Oil|
|(opt)||Fresh Coriander (Cilantro), chopped (opt)|
- Soak lentils.
- Pressure cook the dal, tomatoes and tumeric powder with 3 cups water until your pressure cooker emits 3 whistles.
- If you don’t have a pressure cooker, cook the dal in a covered, thick bottomed, pan for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.
- For the tadka, heat ghee or oil in a pan add the mustard seed or cumin seeds and wait until they start popping, then add the asafetida, dry red chilies, garlic, and onions until they turn a golden color.
- Add the dal to the tadka, then add salt and lemon juice and mix well.
- If the dal is too thick, add some water to your desired consistency. If it is too thin, let it cook down further over med-low heat.
- Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steamed white rice, papad and pickles.
Every evening, countless homemakers in India and Nepal pour out a spoonful of ghee into their pans. The ghee melts into a clear, fragrant pool. Cumin seeds crackle. Slowly, the air fills with the irresistible aroma of asafetida powder. A few quick manipulations later, there is dal: a beautiful shade of yellow, piping hot and ready to be enjoyed! Try this delicious dish, which is both nutritious and healthy!
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