Yellow Daal with Tadka

I’m sure that the Indians among my regular readers are going to think that I am losing my marbles because I am putting up the recipe for a dish as simple as Daal Fry.  It does seem similar to someone putting up a recipe for boiled eggs (although I did once see Martha Stewart devote quite some time of her show to the correct way of boiling eggs!) but I am doing it because several people have requested me for it.

Daal is the Hindi/Indian word for lentils and when cooked, it is quite like split pea or lentil soup in texture and consistency.  Most Indians equate Daal with the humblest of foods and yet it is the most ubiquitous of Indian dishes and most families cook it on a daily basis. There are regional variations on the standard Daal recipe but most contain some kind of lentils, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and a few kinds of spices.  I am of Punjabi origin and so my Daal recipe is influenced by the tastes of my region.  This Daal is simple to make but it is delicious and whenever I have company over for an elaborate Indian meal, it is a staple at my table.  Most Indian food is spicy and has a lot of ingredients but in this recipe the pure taste of the lentils shines through because it is not camouflaged with the heavy-handed use of strong spices like cardamoms, cloves or cinnamon. It is the perfect accompaniment with either just plain boiled Basmati rice or any kind of the Indian flat breads (Naan, parantha or roti). A simple raita makes a great side dish with this Daal.


1.    ¾ cup yellow peeled Moong lentils/Daal (available at Indian/South-asian stores)
2.    ¾ cup of peeled red lentils/Masoor Daal (available at Indian/South-asian stores
3.    4 cloves of garlic
4.    1-2 green fresh chili
5.    1-2 inch long fresh ginger root
6.    3-4 medium Roma tomatoes or 20-22 grape or cherry tomatoes
7.    2 tablespoon of Ghee (clarified butter) or any cooking oil
8.    1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
9.    2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
10.    1 teaspoon of red chili powder (or flakes)
11.    Salt to taste
12.    One teaspoon sugar

13. fresh cilantro leaves for garnishing.



1.    Combine the two kinds of lentils and give them a good rinse under cold water and then drain all the water out.
2.    Place the washed lentils in a medium sized pot and pour 4 cups of water in it and place it on the stove (on medium heat).
3.    Peel and slice the garlic cloves and add them to the pot.
4.    Also chop the tomatoes and add them to the pot.
5.    Add the green chili, turmeric powder and salt to the pot.

6.    Place a lid over the pot and let it simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes.

7.    Check on the pot every 5-7 minutes and if it looks like the water is drying up, add a little bit more water and stir the contents of the pot thoroughly.

8.    When the lentils seem soft and completely cooked, using a wooden spatula, mash the some of the lentil seeds in the pot, to give the dish a soupy consistency.  The tomatoes by this stage get completely mashed and totally blended with the cooked lentil seeds. If you have not reached this consistency, cook for a little bit more time. Then set this pot aside.
9.    Peel and chop the ginger root into small pieces (thinly sliced about ½ inch in length).
10.    Also peel and dice the onion (as finely as you can).
11.    In a small saucepan, add the Ghee or cooking oil and heat it over medium heat.
12.    When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sputter for 10-12 seconds in the oil.

13.    Then add the sliced ginger pieces and let them cook in the oil till they are lightly browned (usually takes 20-25 seconds). Keep stirring the oil while the ginger pieces are getting fried.

14.    Add the chopped onion pieces to the sauce pan and stir the contents of the pan.  While constantly stirring, cook till the onions start to look translucent or slightly browned. Turn the heat off.
15.    While the oil is still hot, quickly add the chili flakes to the oil and stir the contents of the pot (this hot oil mixture is called Tadka).
16.    Pour the hot oil (with the cumin seeds, ginger, onion and chili flakes in it) over the cooked lentils and stir.
17.    Garnish with a few fresh cilantro leaves on top.  Serve this daal over boiled rice or a rice pilaf or with Indian flat bread, with a side of Raita.

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  1. Permalink Submitted by Rupali on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 00:19

    Thanks for sharing this Shabnam. As you mentioned, it is a staple in most Indian homes but it is always interesting to see the variations of each family and region. Next time I make this daal, I will surely try your version. Looks yummm!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 00:28

      Thanks Rupali 🙂 How do you make yours? Do share!!! The weird thing is that I made this Daal months ago and was too embarrassed to upload this recipe because I thought most Indian readers would think I am nuts to post something so easy. But then I had numerous requests from non-Indian readers, so I finally put it up today. And now I see that all the likes and comments on the fb are from Indians and someone in Virginia (probably 10 miles from where I live) couldn’t resist making it right away and she just got done. Now I am craving the daal too and am thinking of making a fresh batch before the Presidential debate starts in 40 minutes!

  2. Permalink Submitted by Surbhi on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 00:26

    Yup Daal is a staple in most homes, mine too. I make my daal pretty close to the way you do. The differences being I add a little onion and tomato to the boiling daal and add tomatoes to the tadka too. I would also add a good bit of hing to the tadka. Awesome flavor and great for digestion.

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 14:00

      Hi Surbhi – yup Hing in daal is great and I add it to mine too but I wasn’t sure if the readers (who have turned out to be non-Indians for the most part) would like the strong flavor and so I left it out this time. I think it is probably a developed taste. I hope all’s well with you and the family 🙂

  3. Permalink Submitted by Mary Jo on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 01:06

    Oh yes! Thanks for sharing you dal recipe. I need to make this right away. Looks so good. (By the way, I read that Cooks illustrated is going to do an article on hard boiling eggs.)

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 23/10/2012 - 14:03

      HEYYYY Mary-Jo – how are you? I hope all’s well with you 🙂 And yes, do try this easy daal recipe and send me feed back on how it turned out. Also, let me know when you are ready for the India trip with me and Julie – XOXO

  4. Permalink Submitted by Kathy Coolidge on Thu, 25/10/2012 - 20:42

    This is Kathy, Mike’s (Collins) sister. I’ve been reading some of the recipes and can’t wait to try them. BTW, the photos are really beautiful and nice to be able to see the progress of a recipe.

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Thu, 25/10/2012 - 23:16

      Hey Kathy!!! Good to see you here 🙂 yes, please do try my recipes and let me know how they turn out. BTW I have a class for Indian cooking on Saturday Nov 10th if you are interested, let me know! Happy Cooking! XOXO

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