Dal tadka ( also called dal fry or lentil curry) has its roots in the Northern states of India. This dish has now become popular all over India and across other countries. Dal tadka is mainly eaten with Indian bread (naan or rotis) or rice (plain white rice or ghee rice).
I have tried dal tadka across Indian states at roadside eateries (often called as “Dhaba”) and also in restaurants. The flavor of dal tadka in the dhabas is often very different from what is served in restaurants. I have tried to create a recipe that comes very close to what you get in dhabas – as I love the deep flavors and spicy touch that a dhaba-made dal fry gives you.
The main ingredient of dal tadka is boiled lentils. Most recipes use just one type of lentil but I have combined 4 types of lentils to bring a different texture and taste, as below:
- Tur dal ( also known as Arhar, tuvar, toor dal or split pigeon peas),
- Chana dal ( Bengal Gram)
- Masoor dal (red lentils)
- Moong / Mung dal
I have used a variety of spices to make the dal tadka more flavorful. The onions and tomatoes, green chilies, ginger, garlic and cilantro all add to the taste of dal tadka. The tempering of ghee, red chilies, curry leaves and garlic on the top makes the dal tadka very flavorful.
A key step in this recipe is the use of Tadka – which means “tempering.” Tempering is a common step in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices, curry leaves and red chilies are heated in hot oil or ghee and the mixture is added to a dish. This process adds a distinct smoky aroma and flavor of spices and herbs to the main dish.
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Dal Tadka | Dal Fry
Dal tadka (dal fry or lentil curry) is a part of North Indian cuisine and a quintessential Indian curry that is eaten with roti, naan, or rice. Dal fry is made with boiled lentils, Indian spices, and a mix of veggies like onions, tomatoes, and ginger-garlic paste.
Prepare the Dal
- Wash the dal
- Mix the dals with water in a pressure cooker pan
- Pressure cook the dal for 3 whistles, as per the cooking instructions provided with your pressure cooker
Prepare the vegetables
- Cut the onions into thin slices about 1 inch in length
- Dice the tomatoes
- Split the green chilis vertically
- Wash and chop the cilantro
Cooking the dal
- Keep a Saute pan on medium flame.
- Add cooking oil
- When the oil gets hot, add the mustard seeds and let them sputter
- Now add cumin seeds, and half of the curry leaves. Stir for about 1 minute
- Add the onions, ginger, and garlic paste.
- Stir for 3-4 minutes until the color of the onions starts to change
- When the onions are cooked, add the tomatoes and green chili
- Reduce the heat to low, Add all the spice powders - turmeric, cumin, coriander, red chili and garam masala powders. Mix well.
- Continue stirring on low flame for 3-4 minutes
- Add salt, kasoori methi and chopped fresh cilantro and continue stirring
- Now add the cooked dal mixture,salt and about 1 cup of water
- Gently mix the dal so that the spices are spread uniformly
- Taste and adjust the salt and spice levels ( if needed add some more red chili powder)
- Let the dal boil for 10-15 mts on low heat. If the dal becomes too thick, add ½ cup water at a time.
- When the dal has boiled for at least 10 minutes and reached the desired consistency, turn off the heat
Prepare the Tadka (Tempering)
- Keep a small frying pan (2 inches deep) on the stove at medium heat
- Add the ghee and let it melt
- When the ghee starts to simmer (just before boiling), reduce the heat to low.
- Add the remaining curry leaves, red chilies, chopped garlic, red chili powder, and cumin seeds, and stir quickly for about 1 minute.
- Take care not to burn the ingredients as the ghee is hot.
- Remove the pan from the stove.
- Transfer the dal to a serving bowl.
- Gently spread the tadka on the dal
- Garnish with chopped cilantro,
- Enjoy the dal with rice and rotis