Tadka Dal

By Birjis Adeni Rashed – November 1, 2014
photo by Brian Fitzsimmons

Tadka dal is all about the tadka (seasoning). This warm sputter of spices added to a healthy mix of lentils (dal) makes for a very delicious and nutritious meal. Dal can be made with one single type of lentil or a mix of lentils for great texture and taste. You can also substitute other lentils into the same recipe depending on their availability and any preferences in taste. Tadka dal is versatile; it can be paired and eaten with a variety of side dishes (brown rice, quinoa, flat bread) or eaten as bowl of soup.

What You Need 

1/2 cup red lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 cup yellow split mung lentils (mung dal)
1/2 cup yellow split black chickpeas (Bengal gram, chana dal)
1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger 
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
Salt to taste

Tadka (Seasoning)
1/2 tablespoon ghee (optional)
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds 
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves
3 dry red chili peppers
A few curry leaves
1 small cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
Pinch of hing/asafetida (optional)
1 large onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeño chopped
2 green chili peppers, sliced
½ tablespoon ghee (optional)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped 
1 lime

How to Make It 

1. Rinse and wash lentils before cooking. Note: Red lentils cook fastest, followed by the small yellow mung lentils, while the yellow split black chickpeas take a little longer. Presoak the yellow spilt chickpeas for few minutes in warm water unless using a pressure cooker, which eliminates the need for presoaking.

2. Combine the lentils, turmeric, chopped ginger, and chopped garlic with 3–4 cups of water (i.e., more than twice the measure of lentils) and cook.

3. To retain the lentils’ various textures, use a whisk or hand-masher, to lightly mash the cooked lentils (don’t use a blender). Add salt to taste, and slow cook for few more minutes.

4. For the tadka, warm a pan with ½ tablespoon of oil. An option is to include ½ tablespoon ghee, which adds an aromatic flavor to the seasoning. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, which will crackle and sputter. Next, add garlic cloves, red chili peppers, curry leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and hing/asafetida (optional). The warming spices will create a delicious aroma and excite the taste buds.

5. Add the chopped onion to the tadka. When the onions become translucent, stir in the chopped tomatoes and jalapenos. Sauté.
6. After sautéing, combine the cooked, mashed dal with the tadka in the pan; mix well, and let simmer for few minutes. Garnish with sliced green chili peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and ½ tablespoon of ghee. Serve warm with brown rice, quinoa, or flat bread (naan) or as a bowl of delicious and healthy soup.


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