Huli/ South Indian Dal With Vegetables

Huli/ South Indian Dal With Vegetables

As we traversed the road and zoomed past familiar terrain, on our way to the tiny hamlet in Southern Karnataka, the place where my paternal ancestors lived, memories came in a flash. There were moments filled with happiness and joy, festivals and ceremonies celebrated and there were some dark moments too, like when our grandfather passed away and the entire family was engulfed in sadness.

Going to Siddapur from the town in which we lived was a regular feature of our life while growing up and we (my parents and two siblings) did this many times in a year. Every important festival on the Hindu calendar was celebrated here with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Food, served on banana leaves and new clothes made us young folks really happy. Later on, the joy of meeting cousins and some adventures took over. Fun filled times and long walks around the hillocks with conversations  ranging from music to politics, education and cinema and other playful trivia. And when my cousin brothers, Shashi and Vinu, learned to drive, the walks were often replaced by drives with our favourite music playing and many a time without the knowledge of our elders, which added to the thrill and sense of adventure.

This visit was special as this time I was going with my baby for the first time. He was too young to understand what was going in my head, but one day he will. We were received at the entrance by my aunts Indira and Vijaya and alongwith my sister-in -law Vinuta, they performed all the traditional rituals of welcome for my little one. This included an arati and a plate of vermillion and arecanut, all symbolic of culture and heritage passed down through generations and with deep seated meaning.

We ate a sumptous lunch, lovingly prepared by the women of our family and yes Huli was a part of this meal. Since we were short on time and were to leave the same evening there was no time to rest. Add to this extensive feeding sessions with my toddler. I had to get out and take pictures too. Although the house has most of the modern amenities available in cities, once we step out of the door the rustic charm of an Indian village beckons. Coffee, Coconut and Arecanut are all grown in the backyard. There is the cow shed which houses 40 cows. My folks here have access to fresh milk from well tended cows, a luxury that I truly yearn for in Mumbai. The house itself is in the middle of a farm, surrounded by beautiful fruit bearing trees.

A little coriander seeds, some cumin seeds, a little mustard and fenugreek seeds and a pinch of asafetida…. I heard my grandmother explain to my sister on making the perfect "Huli". It was her hand which had stirred pot after pot of Huli, nurturing her huge family of seven children and fourteen grandchildren. When my sister asked her for exact proportions,  she simply shrugged and said we never measure while cooking, the reply you are bound to get from most grandmothers.

I could very well say that Huli is in my blood. I have literally grown up eating it and it is my no. one comfort food. My mother always made sure that there was Huli for me made with my favourite vegetables and to this day "Huli" prepared by her gives the most contentment to my heart. Be it any festive occasion, marraiges, religious ceremonies or daily fare, Huli, with a multitude of regional variations is an intrinsic part of Kannadiga Brahmin cuisine.

There is another story I have to share with you. When I was engaged to be married, the thoughts of serving great meals to my husband got me interested in cooking. And in my mind, a satiating meal would have "Huli" ofcourse. When we went visiting and inviting relatives, after a great lunch which invariably had "Huli", out came my note book as I jotted down recipes from relatives near and far, all masters in the fine art of preparing Huli. Only to discover after marraige that my man doesnt care much for "Huli" He loves his Rasam instead. Since Ro doesnt appreciate Huli as much as I do, it partially robs me of the complete pleasure and contentment of having a Huli meal. But, I"m hoping that my little one inherits my love for Huli which will be some sort of a consolation.

There were many request for "Huli" recipe and when we were back at my parents I prepared some so that I could  take pictures and put it up here. If there is one person who loves "Huli" as much as I do or probably more than me, it has to be our dear friend Abhijit. He has relished to the core "Huli" made by me and my mother. So much so that it made my mother remark, that she feels like sending the entire bucket of "Huli" to Abhijit in Mumbai.

For a nourishing, satisfying, wholesome and delicious meal, serve Huli with hot Rice and Beetroot Sasive.

Huli/South Indian Dal with Vegetables Recipe

There are hundreds of ways for preparing Huli, but this is the way it is prepared in my ancestral home. You could use any seasonal vegetables like beans, carrots, radish, pumpkin, cabbage or even fresh greens either alone or in combination.


For dal:
150 gm (3/4 cup) red gram dal (arhar dal or toovar dal)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ghee or vegetable oil
500 ml (2 cups) water

For vegetables:
250 gm (approx 2 cups) chopped vegetables of your choice
500 ml (2 cups) water

For grinding:
3 to 4  dry red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp tamarind
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp asafetida powder
3 tbsp coconut, grated
1 tsp coconut oil
80 ml (1/3 cup) water

For seasoning:
2 tsp coconut oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 tsp asafetida

3 tsp salt or to taste


Assemble all the ingredients for the dal in a pressure cooker and cook till done, about 3 to 4 whistles. Alternatively cook on medium low heat in a medium sized saucepan for about 45 to 50 minutes or till done.

In a saucepan, cook the vegetables with the water.

In a small wok, heat the oil over a medium flame and put in the dry red chilles, corainder seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cook until the mustard starts to pop and the corainder seeds are a nice golden brown. Lower the flame and put in the fenugreek seeds, turmeric and asafetida powder and stir for 40 to 50 seconds. Switch off the flame and mix in the fresh coconut and tamarind. Grind to a fine and smooth paste with water. you might need a little more or less of water to get the desired smooth and fine paste.

Mix in the vegetables and the ground paste with the cooked dal, add the salt and cook over a medium flame until the entire mixture comes to a rolling boil.

In a small wok or kadhai, heat the coconut oil for the seasoning over a medium flame. Put in the mustard seeds and when they pop, add the curry leaves and asafetida. Be careful and stay away from the wok while you do this. Pour the seasoning into the boiling dal. The sound made by this is something that I absolutely love.

Serve hot with rice and a bowl of yogurt.

Serves 4 to 6

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49 thoughts on “Huli/ South Indian Dal With Vegetables

  1. Such a treat reading your posts, more so, this one 🙂
    Here's to 'Huli' meals 🙂 (yum scrum ) 😛

  2. Beautiful storytelling, gorgeous pictures weave together into a magical, romantic take. I simply adore discovering your family and their traditions and you are so lucky to have grown up this way with this family. I know that your son will walk the same path and grow in these wonderful traditions too. xo

  3. oh anu..huli is such a fav of mine..I grew up in mangalore and love the kannadiga brahmin cuisine so much..I have even managed to convert my hubs (mumbai born and bred) and he absolutely loves it now!

  4. Oh, that's a load of work for dal 🙂 but am sure it will taste divine with all that ground paste. Lovely pictures. Have visited Nagarhole and Coorg this summer and love the place very much.

  5. I have been a regular on your blog for sometime now, I was wondering when you would write another post. I love your trip through memory lanes, it bought memories of my trips to my maternal uncle's place in Akola, and visits to my husband's grandparents house in Shedbal. Now that I live in the U.S.I am craving for such home cooked meals cooked by someone other than me, especially by my mom or mother in law. I have never had Huli, but heard so much about it, now I am going to try this recipe. Thank you so much.

  6. Thank you everybody.

    Jamie: I hope so too.

    A Iyer: You are lucky you have been able to convert your husband. I have fared miserably in this aspect. 🙂

    Sanjeeta: Its not as complicated as it may seem to someone for whom this is new. Try it and you will know. You are right, it tastes great! Nagarhole and Coorg are on the other side of my hometown. Ah..the regional intricacies of India!

    Aparna: Thank you for your words. I have been caught up and have not been able to post frequently, but I will from now on. I know exactly how you feel craving for a home cooked meal living in another country. Take care.

  7. Hi Anu,

    Once again..Woderful writting. You made your site such a cosy place to visit with your betiful posts. Not just the technicalities of cooking, the way you bring up each post is simply superb. My hubby knows your sis and BIL.
    Keep going 🙂

  8. Just wanted to let you know I tried this recipe and it turned so good. I was licking my fingers ( Really!!). Thank you. Would you please share the recipe for Bise Bele Huli Anna? Is it similar to this recipe? I ate Bise Bele at a friends house and absolutely loved.
    Thank you once again.

  9. Thanks to suggestions by twitter, found your lovely blog.
    What a superb write up..I knw that part of the world where u live a little more through this post of yours!!

  10. Amazing photographs ….Awesome post,atlast my wait is over….Thanks !!!!Thanks!!!!! Thanks!!!!!
    U know I have been a regular visitor to your wonderful site….and reading your posts has always been a Gr8 experience…I feel so connected to my roots since I too belong to Karnataka…it really makes me feel very nostalgic and really words fail Anu…all of your posts are really Superb rather Divine I must say…..specially this one….pls continue with the good work since your posts give us a lot of happiness and I really feel very fresh after reading them.

    Thanks once again for this wonderful recipe.

  11. Anu-avare – You are awesome!!I could relate and remember my days, reading every line that you have written. I have many relatives in Siddapura and I can't express in words how much it made me happy visiting my relatives and relishing the huLi. You precisely brought those feelings back in me today!Every bit of your blog is truely divine. Thanks for doing whatever you are doing!

  12. hi anushruti hedge, i am really pleased to c ur blog, i am happy for u, its really good and colourful,i liked this recipe a lot, i had a request would u give me the rasam ingredients, for the same huli quantity.coz what qnty u hav given is tooo much , so could u give them in small quantity. thanx

  13. I saw this yesterday and couldnt resist making it today.
    It came out absolutely delicious. I had to skip coconut oil as I dont use it in cooking. Would it have made difference to the taste?
    I had one question, what is the difference between huLi and Sambar?
    Sambar is the term not used in our households ( I am a tamilian from Karnataka)It was only a 'hotel' term…
    Kolambu is what we made….which is equivalent to huLi/ Sambar.
    Is there any difference that I dont know?..

  14. I love your writing and the way you describe things!!! Do you have any recipe for Kootu? Please share if you have one.

  15. Deepika: Thank you. I have a great recipe for kootu….will try and post it…but alas there is a long list of recipe requests already and it would take some time. Please bear with me.

  16. Dear Anu,

    This post is a feast! It reminded me of my childhood days when we as a family would travel to our maternal great grandfather's place (Bramhasandra, a small village in Karnataka) and spend time with the rest of the family together! What fun we had!

    The huli that my mother makes has a slight variation (she adds kadalebele to huli pudi). I will definitely try this version too! Please keep posting more and more traditional recipes, ofcourse with stories too… 🙂

  17. Ashwini: I'm happy that this post revived memories. There are so many variaitons of Huli…I have so many versions of it myself…I'm sure you will like this too.

  18. Hi Anu,

    I made this huli today, it was so delicious and we all loved it at my place. Thanks for the recipe.

  19. Madam,

    You are an very much caretaking character, i liked your way of explanation about your home town, good to see your place, in fact my wife is from a village near Honavar, what a place!

    I was searching receipy for brahmin's Huli and found your site, took a copy of the receipy, before cooking only my mouth is watering.

    I will write to you after i try this.

    Take care.



  20. Hi Anu
    Really a beautiful post and awesome recipe. Had a doubt, whats the difference between sambar and huli? Are they same?

  21. Renuka: Sambar and Huli are essentially the same, with common ingredients like dal, vegetables and ground spices with regional variations that also contribute to the difference in tastes. "Huli" is a very popular Karnataka term where kannadigas cook this on a daily basis. "Sambar" is more of a tamalian term where tamalians cook it on a daily basis. 🙂

  22. Hi Anu,

    I was actually searching for huli recipe since i couldn't contact my mom… and that is when i found your blog… it is awesome…!!! I prepared beans huli and used kobbarri instead of coconut ..I stay in Australia and we don get coconuts at our grocery shop… the only query i had was my huli was not the usual orange one…it was greenish yellow even though I used red chillies,the taste was the same…
    can you help me out??

  23. Hi Anu,

    I have lived in Canada and now USA for the past three decades. I was born and brought up in Malnad areas of Hassan District. Today is a cloudy rainy day here in North Carolina, my mind wandered around my childhood days and the heavenly food. I thought of cooking some Huli for myself, looked for help on the Web, stumbled upon your web site. Within minutes I headed to the Kitchen, prepared the huli and had a gratifying meal. Thank you for sharing the receipe, as I cook it a couple more times, it will get better.

    Thanks again


  24. Hey Anushruti,

    Made sambar your way today….it was yummy!!Love the profuse use of vegetables n greens & this made justice to health n palate:)

    Thanks n keep sharing the wonderful knowledge you have!

    My best,

  25. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with
    the images on this blog loading? I'm trying to figure out if its a problem on my
    end or if it's the blog. Any responses would be greatly

  26. Hi Anu,
    I think I am commenting here the second time.. I had to let you know this. I have made this huli many many times. I made it today for lunch and licked my fingers literally. The taste, the mix of flavours and the comfort that this huli gives me is unmatchable!!! Even the aroma that hits your nose while cooking this, especially while roasting the spices is so therapeutic. Thank you so much for this recipe! Keep going 🙂

  27. Hello Anu.
    you are such a great photographer I have just loved the you have taken. I am from karwar

  28. I gonna try this recipe today for sure as I love vegetarian food n thanks for sharing such an authentic dish of the kannadiga one

  29. I just made this recipe today and it is sooooo good. Followed it to the letter except reduced the red chillies so it does not have th beautiful hue of your huli, but tastes so good on this cold rainy day. Thank you!

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