Toor Dal is a lentil much loved all over India, from the Sambars of Tamil Nadu and other parts of South India, to the Aamti variation of the Maharashtrian Varan, to the Dal Tadka of the Punjab. And no wonder. The creamy, flowing texture and interesting flavour of the dal makes it a favourite with many.
The Punjab is full of wonderful dals, from Dal Makhani to Amritsari Dal. But nothing really beats the simplicity of Dal Tadka. In the same way that Varan is loved by the Maharashtrians, and Neiyyum Parippum is loved by the Keralites, this simple dal dish has a strong appeal. It is made with toor dal and generously spiced with a tadka of black mustard seeds, garlic, chilli and cumin.
Toor Dal is famous world wide. Easy and cheap to make, it became a favourite of restaurateurs, so was introduced early to restaurant-goers in other parts of the world. It goes so well with rice and an array of Indian flat breads. Jeera rice is particularly nice with it.
Dal Tadka can be made with other lentils too – masoor dal, or mung dal, for example. Normally it is made with yellow lentils and sometimes a mix of lentils is used. Here our love of toor dal shows through and we have stuck to that lentil. In this recipe toor dal is mixed with tomato and onion, and then ghee tempered garlic, ginger and spices are poured over it at the time of serving.
Dal Tadka | Punjabi Toor Dal
1 cup toor dal
1 medium onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
0.25 tspn turmeric
0.25 tspn Indian chilli powder
salt to taste
2 Tblspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1 tspn cumin seeds
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tspn finely grated ginger
2 dried red chillies, pinched at the end (so they don’t explode in the oil)
10 – 12 fresh curry leaves
Rinse the toor dal well until the water runs clear. Soak the dal for 2 hours or overnight.
Simmer the toor dal in 3.5 cups water in a covered saucepan for 30 minutes – add more water if needed. Now add the tomatoes, onions, green chillies, turmeric, chilli powder and asafoetida. Continue to cook until the toor dal is very soft and disintegrating. The dal will be quite mushy. It may take 45 – 90 minutes in total – it all depends on the age and the quality of the dal. If it begins to froth and bubble over, lift the lid and then prop it on the top of the saucepan rather than cover the pan tightly.
Take a hand held immersion blender and mash the dal a little. Check the consistency of the dal after mashing it and add enough water to achieve the desired consistency.
Heat the ghee in a small heavy saucepan. Add the mustard seeds and, after they begin to pop, add the cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds begin to darken add the ginger and the garlic. Saute for a few seconds and add the red chillies. After another moment, add the fresh curry leaves. Allow them to splutter a little, then pour the ghee and spices over the cooked dal.
Place in a serving bowl and garnish with coriander leaves if required.
Enjoy with rice of flatbreads.