I could write about many things that occupy my mind today. About me being away from home, nestled in the cosy comforts of my parents home for a long break, post the baby, about our current short break in Bangalore, about the shifting once I get back to Mumbai or I could simply go on and on about dal. It’s going to be a while before life sets into a routine back home in Mumbai. Dal tadka is the topic of today's conversation because it is going to be an important part of that routine.
Dal tadka or dal fry with Jeera Pulao is one of my favourite meals. Add a vegetable and a salad and it becomes a compete meal. Simple yet elegant! It is amazing how a meal of dal and rice can bring supreme comfort to one’s soul. Or eat this dal with roti and you have both nutrition and contentment in a plate.
Although there is a vast difference between Indian food served in the hotels and food cooked in Indian homes, dal tadka is one food that is probably also one of the most widely enjoyed both at home and in a restaurant. The dal or lentil used can vary and the seasoning can differ but a meal of dal and rice or dal and roti almost always warms an Indian heart. I’m yet to meet one who disagrees.
The technique for making dal tadka is almost always the same. Cook the dal of your choice and add a simple tadka, baghar or chaunk (seasoning) with ghee or vegetable oil and some spices. The variety can come in the form of the kind of dal used. It could be red gram dal, green gram dal, Bengal gram dal or black gram dal. I prefer to use red gram dal on a daily basis reserving the other dals in my pantry for occasional use during the week.
Dal Tadka/Dal Fry Recipe
You can use a variety of dals like mung dal, masoor dal, urad dal or channa dal, either in combination or individually. Adjust the consistency of the water according to taste. This is great served with jeera pulao or roti.
¾ cup (185 ml) Toovar/Arhar (red gram dal)
2 ½ cup (375 ml) water
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ghee or vegetable oil
¼ tsp asafetida powder
1 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1” piece cinnamon
2 slit green chillies
2 tsp ginger paste
½ tsp asafetida powder
2 tomatoes chopped
2 tsp coriander seed powder (dhaniya)
1 tsp cumin seed powder (jeera)
½ tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup hot water
Prepare the dal:
Wash the dal in a colander over a running stream of water and soak it in 2 ½ cups water for about 15 to 20 minutes. In a pressure cooker, place the dal with the soaking water and turmeric, ghee and hing and give 3 whistles. Alternatively cook in a saucepan until the dal breaks down and is completely cooked, about 45 minutes. Mash the dal completely with a whisk and keep aside.
Prepare the seasoning:
In a wok or kadhai heat the ghee or vegetable oil over a medium low flame. Do not allow it to smoke. Stir in the cloves and the cinnamon. When the cloves puff up, add the asafetida, slit green chillies and ginger paste. Stir for a minute and then put in the chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are pulpy, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the coriander seed, cumin seed, dry mango and red chilli powders and cook for a couple of minutes more.
Assemble the dal:
Mix the prepared seasoning with the cooked dal. Put in the hot water, salt, chopped fresh coriander and bring to a boil.
Serve hot with rice or roti.