Dinner Tonight: Tadka Dal

My infatuation with vegetarian Indian cuisine continues. Tadka dal combines masoor dal (red or pink hulled lentils) with a hell of a lot of onions and spices. It doesn't quite sound like enough to make a satisfying meal, but the result is a creamy, slightly spicy stew that is astonishingly good and hard to keep from downing in just one sitting.

I found this recipe in Saveur, and my only worry was finding the right kind of lentils. I finally tracked them down in the bulk section of Whole Foods. My only previous experience with lentils has been with the green variety, which can make a mean soup when paired with pork. But I've never explored their use in Indian cuisine. It's the star of this dish, and it breaks down after 20 minutes into a fragrant, luscious puree.

The only animal product to come close to this guy is butter—lots of it. Like a whole stick. Of course, you'll need to turn that into ghee, and here is a great recipe for doing so. It does take a little time, but it is relatively painless. I've also seen ghee sold in enormous plastic bottles at a local grocery store if you can't be bothered, but I don't really see the point. You could also safely just use butter, but it certainly won't taste as gloriously nutty and fragrant.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago. He is the co-founder of The Paupered Chef and spends most of his time playing with the new cooking gadgets he got from his wedding.

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Dinner Tonight: Tadka Dal

About This Recipe

Rated:

Ingredients

  • 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 cups masoor dal (hulled red lentils)
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 Thai green chilies, stemmed and sliced

Procedures

  1. 1

    Add the ginger, garlic, and 1/4 cup of water to a blender and process until smooth.

  2. 2

    Pour half of the ghee into a large pot set over medium-high heat. Dump in the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are well browned, about 20 minutes.

  3. 3

    Pour in the garlic and ginger puree along with the cayenne, coriander, ground cumin, and turmeric. Cook until the water has nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.

  4. 4

    Pour in 4 cups of water along with the lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. 5

    Add the rest of the ghee to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chilies. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes. Ladle some of the lentils into a bowl and pour some of the ghee and chili mixture on top.

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