Indian Recipes - Dhal
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All photos by Nicky Garratt copyright 1999


Fried Dhal
"In 2004 I went on vacation to Karachi, Pakistan for 8 days. Unlike Indian, Pakistan can be more difficult for vegetarians but this fried dhal dish did the trick." 

  • 1/2 cup of red lentils.
  • 1/4 cup chana dhal.
  • 1 1/2 cups of water.
  • 5 hot green chilies.
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped
  • 4 T vegetable oil
  • 1 t black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 5 curry leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/4 t asafoetida
  • 2 T fresh coriander

Rinse the lentils and dhal then bring to boil in a large saucepan with chilies, turmeric and onion until the dhal is fully cooked. Add tomatoes and salt. Add a little more water if it begins to dry out keeping over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft and begin to collapse. Heat oil in a small pan then add mustard seeds and cumin, after they sizzle for a few seconds and the mustard seeds begin to pop add garlic, curry leaves, dried chilies and asafoetida. After about 10 seconds tip the ingredients into dhal and fold in. Serve garnished with Coriander.

Mung Dhal. (Basic Recipe)
"Dhal. is an essential side dish in India and is flavored with a seemingly endless variety of ingredients. It is also combined with vegetables dishes, particularly in the south. This recipe also works for red and yellow lentils as well as yellow split peas." 

  • 1 1/2 cups of split Mung Dhal.
  • 1/4 t of turmeric
  • 4 1/2 water
  • 1 t salt

Make sure there are no foreign objects like small stones which are often in the imported dhal. Rinse dhal. in several changes of water until water runs clear. Add water and bring to boil. I like to skim off any scum before adding turmeric. Boil on medium low heat for half an hour in a saucepan with the lid slightly ajar. If needed, you can add a little water if dhal. starts to get to thick. It should be like a very thick soup. (mung dhal., red lentils, and split peas need no soak time for this dish, but the peas will need 3/4 of an hour cooking time). Add salt and fluff the dhal.

Flavoring Option #1: Cumin

  • 1 t whole cumin seeds
  • 1 T vegetable oil

Heat oil in small frying pan until almost smoking then take off heat. Toss in cumin seeds and stir quickly for a few seconds - be very careful not to burn, but should turn a shade lighter. Pour immediately onto cooked dhal., fold in and serve. Garnish with a few chopped coriander leaves.

Flavoring Option #2: Ginger/chiliChili's.JPG (40782 bytes)

  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped t whole cumin seeds
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 small hot green chili’s finely chopped
  • 2 T chopped coriander leaves reserve a little for garnish
  • 1 T of lemon juice
  • 1/8 t Cayenne pepper

Heat oil in small frying pan add cumin seeds let sizzle for a few seconds. Add ginger and chili’s and fry for minute before folding into cooked dhal. along with lemon juice, cayenne and coriander. Serve garnished with more chopped coriander


Flavoring Option #3: Garlic

  • 6 T vegetable oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves finely sliced

Fry garlic until golden brown then fold into cooked dhal. (best with red lentils)

Flavoring Option #4: Black Mustard Seeds

  • 4 T of vegetable oil
  • 1 t of black mustard seeds
  • 2 small green chili’s finely chopped
  • Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Heat oil in a small frying pan until quite hot. Add mustard seeds fry until they splatter (note: yellow mustard seeds cannot be substituted). Keep lid handy to stop the seeds flying all over the kitchen. Add chili’s and stir for a minute before folding into cooked dhal. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Flavoring Option #5: Onion and Tomato

  • 1/2 t ginger minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 small green chili’s finely chopped
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/4 t of black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 t of black onion seeds (nigella)
  • 3 dried red chilies
  • 1 ripe tomato diced
  • Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Add minced ginger, garlic and chilies into dhal. at the start of boiling, after scraping off any scum. In a small frying pan heat oil and fry onion until golden brown then add black mustard seeds, black onion seeds and dried chilies. I usually pull the onions aside with a wooden spoon and turn the heat up so the seed can sizzle for a few seconds without burning the onions. Add chopped tomato and fry until the tomato is cooked and the oil starts to separate. Fold into dhal. then garnish with coriander leaves.

Flavoring Option #6: Mango    

  • 1 green mango sliced   
  • 5 T of vegetable oil   
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of whole cumin seeds   
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper   
  • 1 t garam masala   
  • 4 T chopped coriander (reserve some for garnish)

Heat oil in small frying pan. Add cumin seeds and let sizzle for a few seconds then add mango slices and fry for a about ten minutes on medium heat. Sprinkle on cayenne and garam masala, stir for a few seconds then fold into cooked dhal. (best with yellow or red lentils). Fold in most of the coriander and serve garnished with remanding coriander.

Flavoring Option #7: Tomato/SpiceCur.JPG (23698 bytes)

  • 5 small hot green chilies. trimmed and seeded   
  • 7 T or vegetable oil   
  • 1 Large onion minced   
  • 1 T minced ginger  
  • 1 Large ripe tomato finely chopped  
  • 1 T panch phoron *
  • 6 Curry leaves
  • 4 dry red chilies
  • 1 T minced garlic

              * (Equal parts whole Cumin, Yellow Mustard, Fennel, Fenugreek and Nigella seeds)

Add green chilies at the start of cooking dhal. (see basic recipe). Heat 5 T oil in large frying pan and fry onion until golden. Add ginger & tomato. Fry while stirring until the content is cooked, about 10 minutes, then fold into cooked dhal. Heat the remaining 2 T of oil in a small saucepan. Add Panch phoron mix let sizzle until the seeds pop, add curry leaves for only a few seconds, then add minced garlic, keep stirring for half a minute, then fold into dhal. and serve.