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.
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.
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.