Sunday, May 30, 2010

Simple red lentil dal (updated)

I'm a little afraid of embarrassing myself but here goes... This was a good faith effort to recreate the way that my friend Anu told me her family makes dal. I don't know how authentic my reproduction is but it always tastes really great to me, savory and just a little bit sour.

Red Lentil Dal
Serves: 2-3

1 cup red lentils
1 small yellow onion diced
4 cups water
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tbsp fresh ginger minced (or 1 tsp powder)
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 chili or red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Add washed and picked over lentils, onion, tumeric, and about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Let it return to a boil, and then turn down to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes -- just until the lentils are tender.

In a medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp neutral oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about a minute until they start to pop. Add the garlic and ginger, coriander, a few dashes of chili pepper flakes, and after another 30 seconds or so the lentils. Continue to simmer for 10 minutes so it will thicken up a little bit (you can smush some of the lentils with a wooden spoon to thicken it a little or I sometimes add a teaspoon or two of corn starch). Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon over the top, and adjust the salt to taste.

Serve with basmati rice and homemade naan (or even easier chapati pictured here), mmmmmmm

UPDATE: Replaced the photo on Sept 8, 2010 with a batch with a much better consistency.


  1. OMG. So I miss Indian food a LOT. And so when I was in Gibraltar the other day, I stocked up on mustard seed, whole garam masala mix, curry leaves, etc. in an Indian shop. I get home and make my delicious cream-of-wheat Indian style to realize... I transported BROWN mustard seeds cross-continentally for my Indian food, not black. I was bummed. To say the least. I was excited to try this recipe until I saw the damned BLACK mustard seed part and it made me want to throw the computer across the room. :)

  2. oh no, sad story! i'm kind of embarrassed of this one, the picture at least, because i know it doesn't really look anything like dal. i tried making it again to get the consistency right but was out of seeds so i used mustard powder and a dash of cinnamon and it was still dynamite :)

  3. No, it's good, you know... it's simple. Sometimes I can't get things like, oh, tempeh or tofu, or white grapefruit, or the right kinds of greens or even really basic ingredients. So things like this, which are easy and cheap and don't need fancy things are perfect for me to try.:)