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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Toor Dal Fry/Dal Tadka

Although dal generally refers to split pulses, whole pulses are known as sabūt (whole) dals and split pulses as dhuli (washed)dals. The hulling of a pulse is intended to improve digestibility and palateability, but as with milling of whole grains into refined grains, affects the nutrition provided by the dish, reducing dietary fiber content. Pulses with their outer hull intact are also quite popular in India and Pakistan as the main cuisine. Over 50 different varieties of pulses are known in India and Pakistan.

Tadka or tarka (also known as chaunk or baghar or vaghar or thalimpu) consists of various spices or other flavorings fried in a small amount of oil. The ingredients in the tadka for each variety of dal vary by region and individual tastes.

The raw spices (more commonly cumin seeds, mustard seeds and/or asafoetida; sometimes fenugreek seeds and dried red chili pepper) are first fried for a few seconds in the hot oil on medium/low heat. This is generally followed by ginger, garlic and onion, which is generally fried for 10 minutes. After the onion turns golden brown, ground spices (like turmeric, coriander powder, red chili powder, garam masala, etc.) are added. The tadka, or spice-infused oil, is poured over the cooked dal and served with roti or over Basmati rice.

In some recipes, tomatoes, tamarind, unripe mango, or other ingredients are added while cooking the dal, often to impart a sour flavor. Some preparations call for mashing the cooked dal a bit with a hand masher or spatula.

Dal Fry or Dal Tadka is a preparation of pulses (dried lentils, peas or beans) which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick stew prepared from these, an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi cuisine. It is regularly eaten with rice and vegetables in Southern India, and with both rice and roti (wheat-based flat bread) throughout Northern India and Pakistan. Dal is a ready source of proteins for a balanced diet containing little or no meat. Sri Lankan cooking of dal resembles that of southern Indian dishes.

This recipe yields 4 servings.


* 3/4 cup toor dal

* 1 and half cup water to pressure cook the dal

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* 1 cup of additional water

* 1 tbl spoon butter or Ghee

* 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

* 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds

* 4-5 pepper corn

* 3-4 cloves

* 1" stick of cinnamon

* 2 dry red chili pods

* 1/4 teaspoon of asafetida

* 1 small tomato chopped

* 1-2 green chilies slit/sliced

* 1/2" thinly sliced ginger

* 1 sprig of curry leaves

* ½ tsp turmeric powder

* 1 teaspoon of coriander powder

* 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder

* 1 teaspoon of mango powder

* 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder

* Juice from 1/2 fresh lime

* 1-2 teaspoons of sugar (optional)

* 1 teaspoon of salt (to taste)

* 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves


* Wash the dal in running stream of and discard all the water.

* Soak it in 1 cups water for about 10-15 min

* Cook dal in a pressure cooker with 1 and half cup water and salt.

* When cooker cools down, take boiled dal out of cooker. Add one cup of water and lightly mix it with hand churner or whisk and set aside.

* Heat butter or ghee in a pan on medium/low flame on stove.

* When hot, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorn, and dry red chili pods.

* When cumin seeds and mutard seeds crackle add asafetida immediately followed curry leaves, tomatoes, slit green chilies and ginger slices. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until the tomatoes and ginger slices are soft and tender.

* Stir in the coriander powder, cumin powder, dry mango and cayenne pepper powder and turmeric to the whisked dal add this to the cooking tomatoes on stove.

* Add one cup of water and salt and bring to a boil.

* Add lime juice and sugar, cook for 1-2 min.

* Add chopped cilantro leaves for garnish.

* Serve hot with Rice or roti/Chapati.


* Adjust the amount of water according to consistency of dal desired. Keep in mind that Toor dal thickens as it sits and cools.

* I did not add onions of garlic today, because I wanted to keep the taste simple but sometimes I do saute one small chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic until translucent before adding tomatoes to butter and Tadka (tempering).

* I mix the dal with hand churner/whisk, but if you opt not to do that that is fine too.

* You can adjust the amount of sugar you add at end, or can totally omit it. On the same note you can adjust amount of lime juice to your taste as well.

* You can use any other dal instead of Toor dal using the same recipe for example moong dal, masoor dal, channa dal etc etc.

* For another variation, I sometimes saute and add 4-5 thinly sliced radishes (rounds) to the recipe before adding tomatoes.

Here are some commone varieties of dal (you can see pictures of these on left side of my main page of this blog)

* Toor dal - Yellow Pigeon peas; available either plain or oily. It is the main ingredient for the famous South Indian recipe called Sambar (pronounced as Saambaar).

* Chana dal -Split Chickpeas without seedcoat. Chana dal is produced by removing the outer layer of Kala chana (black chickpeas) and then splitting the kernel. Although machines can do this, it can be done at home by soaking the whole chickpeas and removing the loose skins by placing the chickpeas between two towels and rubbing with a rolling pin.

* Yellow split peas - While not commonly used on the Indian sub-continent it is very prevalent in the Indian communities of Guyana and Trinidad, and was formerly popular amongst Indians in the United States. There, it is referred to generically as dal and is the most popular dal, although masoor dal and toor dal are also used. It is prepared similarly to dals found in India but also may be used in a variety of other recipes.

* Mung dal - Split Mung beans.

* Lobya Dal Black eyed beans Kidney Beans rajma. Best served with plain pilau rice.

* Urad dal - Urad bean is sometimes referred to as "Black gram". It is the main ingredient of the South Indian dishes: Idli and Dosai. It is also one of the main ingredients of East Indian (Oriya, Bengali, Assamese) dish Pitha. Punjabi version, Dal makhani.

* Masoor dal - Red lentils.

* Sweet Potato dal - Another variation of the dal using sweet potato in addition to lentils.

* Rajma dal - Kidney beans.

Dal description source:

Recipe and Photographs by Surekha.

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