Dhal is one universal Indian dish that like by everyone in Malaysia. It is the comfort food that transcends cultures, races, gender, old and young, serve in the restaurant as well as the ‘Mamak’ store at the alleys.

The reason? It has a universal taste, not spicy, vegetarian, mild, kid-friendly, can be the main dish, side dish, ideally eaten with roti, naan (flatbread), poppadoms, humble plain rice or the fit-to-royalty biryani rice. It is hard to find any other simple meal that is so versatile as dhal.

You can spell it as dhal, dal or dahl, which refers to the same Indian dal recipe. The local restaurants in Malaysia served it mostly with roti canai or banana leaf rice.

So here is my version of the easy dhal recipe with some Malaysian influence, quick to make, highly popular, and extremely nutritious.

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You can either use the red lentils (Masoor dhal) or the yellow lentils (Split Pigeon Pea or Toor dhal). Both are the popular choice in Malaysia. I am using the yellow lentils in this recipe.

In summary, dhal curry is prepared with slow-boiled lentils, combined with tempered spices (mainly cumin) coupled with onions, tomatoes, and garlic. Other common ingredients in other recipes include eggplants and tomatoes.

Dhal recipe

Here is the step-by-step explanation in detail.

1. Soak the lentils

Sieve through the lentils with a colander or wire mesh strainer to remove any pebbles or debris. Some lentils that are sold in packets are free from this debris, although it is more expensive.

Rinse with water a few times to remove any dirt.

Soak the lentils in water for a few hours. You can even soak it up to six hours. It will soften the lentils and shorten the cooking time. You need to increase the cooking time if you do not soak it in advance.

Boil the lentils

Boil the lentils is an easy but crucial step. The key is to be patient.

The superbly cooked dhal should be creamy and thick; the lentils still can be seen as individual pieces but incredibly soft. Lentil dhal should be cooked over low heat for a prolonged period to achieve this consistency.

How long it takes to get this consistently depends on the type of lentils, the initial amount of water, the duration for soaking the lentils, and the intensity of the heat.

The yellow lentils I use in this recipe takes about 45 minutes.

I soak the lentils for four hours before I started cooking it in this recipe.

Following these steps:

  • Bring the water to a boil. Use about three to four times of water by volume to cook the lentils. I use 800ml of water for 200g of lentils in this recipe. Add water whenever it is required.
  • Add the lentils to the boiling water, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to it for additional flavor and color.
  • Skim off any scum floating on the surface, or the dhal can turn bitter.
  • Cook until it turns soft, which will take about forty-five minutes.

If the lentils are still hard after forty-five minutes, add some hot water and continue to simmer until it turns homogenous and creamy. The thickness can vary from a thin soup to a thick congee, according to your desire.

Season the dahl with salt

Remember we add the water initially and simmer for forty-five minutes? The reason I only add salt at the stage is to avoid it becomes too salty. It is hard to estimate the amount of salt required without knowing the final volume of the dhal.

Stock or water?

It may seem logical using vegetable stock to replace water to enhance the flavor of the dhal. On the other hand, the myriad of herbs and spices and the lentils have a strong flavor that makes the stock redundant.

Therefore, I only use water to cook the dhal in this recipe.

Watch the videoRead on: Watch the video recipe at the end of this post

dal recipe

2. Fried the spices

Tempering the spices is one of the most common methods in Indian cooking. This step is called Tarka (or baghaar/chownk), means tempering in Hindi.

Frying a mix of spices over low heat with either ghee or butter until sizzling and aromatic. The spices will release the essential oil that contributes to the aroma.

Here is how :

Melt the ghee or butter in a saucepan. You can use either one, but ghee gives a richer flavor, in my opinion.

Add the cumin seeds (along with mustard seeds if you wish) and fry over low heat until it turns aromatic and toasted, which will take about two to three minutes.

Caramelise the onion

Add the chopped onion and sautéed until lightly golden and translucent.

You can decide whether to caramelized the onion longer for a stronger flavor.

Brown the garlic and ginger

Next, add the minced garlic and ginger. Pay attention not to fry the garlic too long or over high heat, as garlic will burn quickly. Burned garlic will cause the dhal to taste bitter.

You can omit ginger which is optional.

Add tomato

Add the chopped tomatoes once the garlic starts to dry up and turns to light brown,

Add the ground spices and dry herbs

Add the ground coriander, garam masala, curry leaves, and dry chiles at this stage. Mixed well and it’s ready to combine with the cooked lentils.

You can substitute the dry chili with chili flakes or fresh green chili if you wish.
Add the ground spices at this stage.

lentil dahl

3. Combine the lentils and the tempered spices

The final step is to combine the lentils with the tempered spices.

Combine the spices to the soften lentils and mix well.

After mixing, transfer the dhal to a shallow bowl. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, some fried shallots, and fresh coriander leaves.

Serve with roti, biryani rice or just steamed rice.

Watch this video

A picture worth a thousand words, a video worth a thousand images.
This video will show you how to prepare Dhal. (7.50 minutes)

(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab)


The Dhal Recipe

5 from 1 vote
dhal curry recipe
Dhal recipe
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

Here is the basic dhal recipe that is easy to make, and kid-friendly and like by everyone.

Course: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dhal
Servings: 3 people
Calories: 277 kcal
Author: KP Kwan
Ingredients
For garnish :
Instructions
Clean, soak and boil the lentils
  1. Sieve through the lentils with a colander.
  2. Rinse with water a few times.
  3. Soak the lentils in water for a few hours.
  4. Bring the water to a boil. Add the lentils to the boiling water, then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Add one teaspoon of turmeric powder.
  6. Cook until it turns soft, which will take about forty-five minutes.
  7. Season the dahl with salt.
Fried the spices
  1. Melt the ghee or butter in a saucepan.
  2. Add the cumin seeds along with mustard seeds.
  3. Add the chopped onion and sautéed until lightly golden and translucent.
  4. Next, add the minced garlic and ginger.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes once the garlic starts to turn to light brown,
  6. Add the ground coriander, garam masala, curry leaves, and dry chiles. Mixed well
Combine the lentils with the tempered spices.
  1. Combine the spices with the soften lentils
  2. Cook further for a few minutes until it becomes homogeneous.
  3. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, some fried shallots, and fresh coriander leaves.

Recipe Video

Nutrition Facts
Dhal recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 serving)
Calories 277 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Cholesterol 12mg 4%
Sodium 1182mg 49%
Total Carbohydrates 41g 14%
Sugars 3g
Protein 18g 36%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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    2 replies to "Dhal recipe – How to cook in three simple steps"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am glad to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible

    • […] Dhal recipe – How to cook in three simple steps […]

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