May 29, 2010

Dal Tadka (Indian Style Tempered Lentils)

The Indian kitchen without some lentils or beans must be a rarity. Whichever part of India you are in and whatever the type of cuisine prevails there, lentils and beans will definitely find their way into the daily menu in one form or the other.
This is not surprising considering that lentils and beans are our primary source of protein, especially for the vegetarians amongst us.

While there are at least a hundred different ways of cooking them in India, not all of them are very complicated. Many of them are very easy to conjure up and take very little time too, if you do not count the time needed for soaking and cooking.
I get around this by pressure cooking a slightly larger amount of lentils when I have to, and then freeze them in single use portions.

The simplest way (and one of the best ways) of eating lentils that I know of is mixing well cooked and mashed cooked red gram lentils (tuvar dal), some salt and home-made ghee with hot rice. While this doesn’t sound particularly exciting, those who have grown up eating lentils this way will agree that there’s something very special about this.
Very small children are usually fed lentils this way as there’s no spice in it and this mix has the right combination of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Even the traditional festive feasts (or sadhyas) in our Palakkad Iyer community begin with this rice-lentil combination.

Dal tadka is a North Indian style of preparing lentils where the cooked lentils, usually red gram lentils (tuvar dal) or split moong lentils, are tempered with spices. This lentil preparation has the warmth of the spices added to it, but not the fire.

In Indian cooking, tempering involves heating a little oil to which small amounts of various spices such as mustard seeds, cumin seeds, black gram lentils (urad dal), curry leaves, asafoetida or others are added. The result is an undeniably Indian flavour and aroma.
The spices used in tempering can be different for different dishes.

There are probably as many versions of this dal as there are people who prepare it. Some add ginger and garlic as well. I do to occasionally, but haven’t here.
This recipe uses amchur, which is dried and powdered mango, to give the dal a very slight tang. You could substitute this with a little tamarind paste or add a finely chopped tomato instead. The taste would be a bit different but just as good.

This particular version is probably the most basic one of dal tadka. I have adapted it from the Sept-Oct 2005 issue of Tarla Dalal’s Cooking And More magazine.


1 1/2 cups cooked red gram lentils (tuvar dal)*

1 1/2 tsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp amchur (dried mango) powder

1/4 tsp red chilli powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 to 3 dried red chillies, each torn into 3 or 4

5 or 6 curry leaves

salt to taste


* Cook the red gram lentils (tuvar dal) in enough water till soft and well cooked but still retaining their shape. If there is a lot of water with the cooked lentils, decant the liquid and save it for use in this dal.
Lightly break the lentils with a wooden spoon such that they are not puréed but still retain a lot of their texture.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, turn down the heat to minimum and add the coriander powder, cumin powder, amchur powder, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, the red chillies and the curry leaves.
Stir quickly a couple of times taking care that the spices do not burn.

Now add the lentils and about a cup of the liquid saved from cooking the lentils. If this liquid proves insufficient add some water. Add the salt, stir well and bring the lentils to a boil.

Turn down the heat to medium and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes till the dal has come together. Add a little water, if necessary to thin the dal if required.
The tadka dal, when done, should be the consistency of a thick pouring sauce, neither too thick nor too thin.

Serve hot as main side dish, with chappathis or parathas. This lentil preparation can also be thinned odwn a bit and served as soup with bread.
This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people.

These tempered lentils make their way to Susan for the 23rd edition of My Legume Love Affair, one of my favourite food events which I'm attending after a long gap.
They're also being sent to Suma to be a part of Delicious Dals From India.


Simran said...

Your dal tadka looks great. I've been adding some sumac for the tang, and it's such a lovely touch.

Pavithra said...

Nice tadka dhall.. I love it anytime for rice and roti...yummy.. cute kadai..

marta said...

mmmmm...I love this dal:) It's my first indian dish I've cooked and it's my favourite:) My husband is from North India so the best is always made by my Mum-in-law :)

lata raja said...

Hi, incidentally I just had dhal tadka with phulkas tonight right before reading your post.
just as you mentioned there are a hundred different ways to cook this simple yet delectable dhal.
Loved your crockery, very cute.

A_and_N said...

I prefer this to parippu :D thanks to the onions and tomatoes and the spices I guess.

And lately, my comfort food is Dal-chawal. Considering I've NEVER eaten parippu saadam because I hated it, this is indeed a big thing for me :)

I love love love the bowl and the picture! So homely.

P.S.- And of course I miss your DB posts :) Good luck with everything.

Gattina said...

I love this post! Have learnt a bit more about your favorite ingredients and different cooking method from different areas. And your gorgeous foto is surely tempting me, I believe the flavor is splendid as well!

Padhu said...

Love it!! Very comforting food

sra said...

Is this the same as dal fry? I've never understood the name, never ordered it in a restaurant and never investigated it on the Net.

for us Telugus, the plain tur dal with salt and ghee you mentioned - we mix it with mango pickle or some sweet and sour tamarind-brinjal gravy - it's great. And we don't have plain tadka dal, if you know what I mean, but always add a vegetable or greens to it.

Chitra said...

New to me.. will try for sure..

M D said...

I love the variety you have on ur website Aparna. Just the prev post was on Almond Muffins and now here you are with our traditional Tadka Dal. Fabulous! Love the way u presented it. I love my Tadka Dal with that dash of lime. I can't go without it!

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Very nice dahl recipe. Book marked to try it out soon!

Susan said...

Aparna, thanks so much for joining MLLA! Good to have you with this golden and tangy dish. A lovely and colorful presentation.

Jayashree said...

I love the way you've talked about the humble "paruppum chaadam". It is something I still enjoy for its simplicity and taste.

suma said...

What would an Indian meal be without dal?? The varieties we can dish up are mind boggling. Dal looks so inviting.

Rajani said...

love dal tadka!! its a must make once a week for me. though i've never added amchur.

Happy Cook said...

Dal and rice is my anytime comfort food, said that i don't make them very often, perks of beeing married to a non indian ;-) he loves it but i don't think he will like it if i give him every week.
I love that bowl youhave served the dal.

Gabriel said...

I learned to cook dal just a week ago and my husband (Indian-American) really like it. I am now learning other Indian dishes to impress my husband. hahah

Srivalli said...

Very delicious aparna..

PJ said...

Aparna,dhal with steamed rice and home-made ghee does excite me and it is still my fav :).Lovely click...

Mallugirl said...

u moved away from baking? :))
i add a ash of lemon juice sometimes to get that tang.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Mmmm.....comfort food of the highest order! Looks great.

Eat4Fun said...

Delicious looking muffins! Almonds are always a nice flavor. A nice sub for the DB Challenge!

Aparna said...

Sumac? Need to source some of that from overseas visitors, Simran. :)

Marta, you're lucky to have the authentic version then. :)

N, funny you never liked parippu chaadham. But then there are so many things I don't either. :)
Thanks, that's one of a set of 2 bowls I picked long before I started this blog!
Looks like I have to do the next DB just for you. :D

Thank you, Gattina. :)

No Sra, it not dal fry (at least I don't think so). :)
Dal, rice, ghee and mango pickle is absolutely yum!
This is not traditional to us, but to the north.

Thanks, MD.

Glad I could make this time, Susan. :)

I understand your predicament, F. :)

Good luck, Gabriel. I'm sure you'll like a lot of our cooking. :)

MG, not moved away from baking totally, just taking a break! LOL

sweetartichoke said...

This dal looks delicious and the picture is so beautiful that I want to grab a spoon a dip in it! :-)

Megan said...

I love that bowl you have served the dal. This dal looks delicious and the picture is so beautiful that I want to grab a spoon a dip in it!

kara said...

I made this Dal Tadka after reading this ur recipe..and it cooked awesome....everyone loved it..Thanks..

Samantha said...

This daal looks delicious and the picture is so beautiful that I want to grab a spoon a dip in it! Thanx for sharing.

Michelle said...

All time fav dish..Love your presentation and recipes :)
I tried the white bread today.Came out so well.I'm very happy about the result.Thanks ya!

Kristen said...

Thanks, that's one of a set of 2 bowls I picked long before I started this blog! Looks like I have to do the next DB just for you, thanx.

Victoria said...

i usually cook it a different way but this was awesome... keep it up!!

Diane said...

I just love Dal Tadka. Thanks for the recipe.

Lynn said...

I've been to a lot of cooking recipe and this one is good to learn. Thank you so much for you time posting this ideas and recipe.

Jane said...

I just love daal. Its indian-pakistani Dish. I like it very much.

Katie said...

This is interesting recipe. I'm going to try this one for my little angel. Thanks so much!

Kayla said...

I just love dal. It taste so well. In Pakistan it is consider as a very cheap and delicious dish. Anyways, thanks for the share.