Urad, that black skin lentil, wonderfully creamy coloured under the skin, is a hard dal that takes a Life (Time) of Cooking (haha). Seriously, it does take a while to cook.
Most people know Urad through Dal Makhani. There are at least three versions here. One came from Nilgiris Restaurant, that iconic Indian restaurant in Sydney. One was given by the chef at the Oberoi in Bangalore. And the last one was given by a young man working at an Indian grocery. He recited it from memory, and it is very simple but rich in flavour.
Are you looking for similar Dal recipes? Try Urad Dal with Onions Four Ways, Simple Monk’s Dal, Urad with Tomato, Coconut and Coriander, Urad Dal Sundal, and Urad Dal Garlic Rice. Or try Moolangi Tovve (Daikon Dal).
Urad is a favourite in the Punjab. However, this recipe is an adaptation of a Rajastani recipe, where chilli and asafoetida powder are essential ingredients of any urad recipe. It takes a while to cook, but very little attention during that time. Good for Sunday Afternoon At Home cooking.
It is another gentle dal recipe. We thrust so many robust flavours at our tastebuds every day, from strong black coffee to salty foods, to hot spicy foods, to tangy lemony dressings, to peppery pasta sauces, and so it goes on … and on … To find gentle dishes like this one and pay attention to the subtle flavourings is a very different way of eating.
This is a good, simple dal of medium consistency. Good served with rice and yoghurt. Add a small salad. Alternatively, thin it down slightly and eat as a soup. Yum.
Urad Tamatar Dal | Urad Dal with Tomatoes
0.66 cup split urad dal, without skins
6 cups water (1.5 litres)
0.5 tspn turmeric
3 Tblspn ghee – use vegetable oil for a vegan dish
3 medium tomatoes, each cut into 8 – 10 pieces
1.25 tspn salt
2 Tblspn finely chopped coriander/cilantro
1.5 tspn finely chopped or minced ginger
1.5 tspn cumin seeds
1 – 2 whole red dried chillies broken into bits
pinch asafoetida powder
Wash the urad dal under running water for several minutes, and drain.
Place the water, turmeric and a dab of the ghee into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the dal and bring back to the boil.
Reduce the heat to moderately-low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cover and continue cooking for 1 hour or until the dal is soft and fully cooked. Remove from the heat and add the salt. Stir well.
Heat the ghee in a small pan over moderately high heat. Add the ginger root, cumin seeds and red chilli. Fry until the cumin and chilli turn brown. Add the asafoetida powder, sauté for 2 seconds and then quickly pour the tadka into the dal. Stir the dal, cover and allow to sit for 1 – 2 minutes.
Add the coriander, stir and serve. Nice with rice.
recipe notes and alternatives
[2020 UPDATE] 12 years after I first made this dish, we are still loving it. In the dish above I have used the same recipe but made it with pantry and freezer staples. I cooked the urad in a home made vegetable stock (freezer), used some passata that was in the pantry instead of the tomatoes, added some ridge gourd and finely chopped greens from the freezer. Hearty! Delicious!
In this version we added garlic cloves and purslane.