Dhal is one universal Indian dish 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.
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.
How to make dhal
Here is the step-by-step explanation in detail how to cook dhal curry.
1. Soak the lentils
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.
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.
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.
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 the chopped tomatoes once the garlic starts to dry up and turns to light brown,
Add the ground spices and dry herbs
You can substitute the dry chili with chili flakes or fresh green chili if you wish.
Add the ground spices at this stage.
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.
Serve with roti, biryani rice or just steamed rice.
Related recipe to dhal curry:
This is a simple dhal recipe that is easy to make. It is the basis of most of the more complicated dhal (dal) recipes. You may want to try the following dhal curry recipes for a more authentic flavor.
Masoor Dal. This is a quick and easy recipe. First, it is the fastest lentil to cook, only fifteen minutes after soaking. Secondly, it is high in protein, making it an ideal choice for vegetarians who want to obtain a balanced nutrition.
Dal tadka. This is a more complicated recipe than the basic dhal in this article. The spices are tempered until aromatic. In addition, I also introduce the smoke flavor by using the dhungar method. The spices used are also more authentic, for example, hing and kasuri methi. Try this recipe if you are looking for an authentic Indian recipe.
The Dhal Recipe
- 200 g yellow lentils, , (Pigeon pea)
- 800 ml water, or vegetable stock
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp ghee, or butter
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 small onion, about 100g, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 0.5 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 0.5 tsp ground coriander
- 0.5 tsp garam masala
- 1 dried chili, cut into short pieces
- 0.5 sprig curry leaves
- 1 tomato, about 200g
For garnish :
Clean, soak and boil the lentils
- Sieve through the lentils with a colander.
- Rinse with water a few times.
- Soak the lentils in water for a few hours.
- Bring the water to a boil. Add the lentils to the boiling water, then reduce to a simmer.
- Add one teaspoon of turmeric powder.
- Cook until it turns soft, which will take about forty-five minutes.
- Season the dahl with salt.
Fried the spices
- Melt the ghee or butter in a saucepan.
- Add the cumin seeds along with mustard seeds.
- Add the chopped onion and sautéed until lightly golden and translucent.
- Next, add the minced garlic and ginger.
- Add the chopped tomatoes once the garlic starts to turn to light brown,
- Add the ground coriander, garam masala, curry leaves, and dry chiles. Mixed well
Combine the lentils with the tempered spices.
- Combine the spices with the soften lentils
- Cook further for a few minutes until it becomes homogeneous.
- Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, some fried shallots, and fresh coriander leaves.
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Original Grass-Fed Ghee by 4th & Heart, 16 Ounce, Pasture Raised, Non-GMO, Lactose Free, Certified Paleo, Keto-Friendly
Pigeon Peas Split Dehusked (Toor Dal) - 2 Lbs - 1 Pack
Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. Classic Red Enamel Dutch Oven (Island Spice Red)
Soeos Szechuan Dried Chili，Dry Szechuan Pepper, Dry Chile Peppers, Sichuan Pepper, Dried Red Chilies, 4oz, (Very Mild Spicy)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 331Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 1962mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 8gSugar: 11gProtein: 17g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 6/16/2019