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Dal Tadka: India’s Ultimate Comfort Food

To me, dal tadka is “like a hug in a bowl,” 😛 😛
This simple lentil stew has graced my family dinner at least once a week, and I still consider it the ultimate comfort food. Tadka dal also offers a window on a basic technique of Indian cooking. “Dal” means lentil, while “tadka” refers to the method of tempering the spices in hot oil to release their flavors.

If you don’t have all the spices, don’t worry. A recipe should be “used as a canvas for experimenting with flavors,” and there are many recipes for the tadka, or spiced oil. If you begin with “the usual holy trinity” of garlic, ginger, and chile, you’re heading down the right path. There are cherry tomatoes in this version, but when I want to make tadka dal more of a meal, I often stir in fresh greens, like spinach or watercress.

Recipe of the week:

Dal Tadka (Yellow Dal):

Preparation Time:  5 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 servings
1/2 cup Toor Dal (arhar dal)
1/4 cup Chana Dal (Bengal gram)
1/4 cup Masoor Dal (red lentils)
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 tablespoon crushed Ginger-Garlic
1 Green Chilli, finely chopped
1 Tomato, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
2½ cups + 1 cup Water
2 teaspoons Ghee or Oil
2 tablespoons chopped Coriander Leaves, for garnishing
For Tempering:
1/2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
2 cloves of Garlic, chopped (optional)
1 Dry Red Chilli, broken into two pieces
A pinch of Asafoetida (hing)
2 teaspoons Ghee
dal tadka

  1. Rinse toor dal, chana dal and masoor dal in water and add them into 3-5 liter capacity steel or aluminum pressure cooker. Add 2-cups water and salt and pressure cook for 4-whistles over medium flame. Turn off flame and allow the pressure to release naturally. Open the lid and keep the cooked dal aside.
  2. Heat 2-teaspoons ghee/oil in a pan. Add sliced onion and sauté until it turns light brown. Add crushed ginger-garlic and chopped green chilli and sauté for 30-40 seconds. Make sure, garlic does not turn dark brown.
  3. Add chopped tomato and sauté until it turns soft.
  4. Add and mix turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
  5. Add cooked dal and mix well.
  6. Add 1-cup water and stir to mix. Taste for the seasoning and add salt accordingly.
  7. Cook on medium flame until you get the desired consistency of dal or for approx 5-6 minutes, stir multiple times in-between. Remove it from flame and transfer into a large serving bowl.
  8. Prepare the tempering by heating 2-teaspoons ghee in a small pan. Add cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle. Add chopped garlic, dry red chillies and asafoetida, mix well and allow garlic to turn light brown.
  9. Remove pan from flame and pour prepared tempering over cooked dal in a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.
Tips and Variations:

  • Out of moong dal, chana dal, masoor dal and toovar dal, you can take any one dal or any combination of it in this recipe. However, make sure that their total quantity is 1 cup.
  • Ghee is used for a nice flavor and this is what makes it so popular. However, you can also use butter or oil as its replacement.
  • Soak dals in water for 30 minutes before pressure-cooking for faster cooking.
Taste:  Mild spicy with appetizing flavor of garlic and ghee
Serving Ideas:  Punjabi yellow dal with lasooni tadka tastes delicious and stomach filling when served with steamed rice, jeera rice or Indian breads like paratha, tandoori roti or naan as a full meal. A glass of lassi and papad goes a long way in improving its taste.

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