Indian Food Part II: Dal



My little trip to the Indian market last week introduced me to all kinds of new things. Well, dal isn’t new to me, but I usually just make it with red lentils. Looking at all the bean choices on the shelves made me want to branch out. So I made yellow split pea dal and it was so delicious.

What is dal? Dal is sanskrit for split. It is made with split peas, beans or lentils. And it’s not exactly a soup, but it can be kind of soupy when you first make it. It thickens up as it sits and definitely once it’s refrigerated. So, I guess it’s more of a side dish. Dal is an important staple in Indian cuisine, adding protein to most meals. Try serving it with some basmati rice and naan or other Indian bread.

Dal tastes great, is nutritious and is super easy to make. No need to soak the peas/beans! YES! I love that. Just boil them in some water and a little tumeric for about 35-45 minutes. Then the fun part, you can flavor the cooked dal all sorts of ways, try stirring in any combination of the following:

Fresh cilantro

Fresh unsweetened flaked coconut (can find this frozen in Indian markets – woo hoo)

Garam masala (Indian spice blend)

Fresh grated ginger

Lemon juice


Ground cumin

Sauteed onion + garlic

Fresh or cooked tomato

You can top the cooked dal with plain non-dairy yogurt and chutneys. I like cilantro, tamarind and mango chutney. Make your own or pick some up at the store.

Dal – Master Recipe

Makes 4 1/2 cups

Adapted from Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking

1 1/2 cups yellow lentils (arhar dal), red lentils (masar dal), yellow split peas (supermarket variety) or yellow mung beans (moong dal)

4 1/2 cups water

1/4 tsp turmeric

Rinse lentils, peas or beans thoroughly in several changes of water until it runs clean.

Put the lentils, peas or beans in a deep pot with the water and turmeric; bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to make sure they do not lump together. Reduce heat to medium and cook, partially covered, for 40 minutes (25 for red lentils and mung beans). Cover, reduce heat and continue cooking another 20-25 minutes (10 minutes for red lentils and mung beans) or until soft.

For a smoother puree, lentils, peas or beans can be whisked to desired consistency. Cooked dal can be kept refrigerated up to 3 days. The mixture will thicken considerably as it cools.

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