Tadka Dal

Lentils with spices, chilli and coriander

Tadka Dal

One thing I know for sure after cooking, teaching and writing about food is that no matter how lavish a dish is or even the list of ingredients nothing speaks volumes like simple home cooked food. Even when cooking as a private chef most people are taken by the dishes that are simple to cook, easy to follow and taste ever so delicious. Needless to say that’s what usually works for me too and easy to rustle up after a busy day.

Dal is such a staple in Indian food and one that is eaten almost every day as part of a meal in homes all across India. I cook it regularly at home and even for work. But rather than making it far too complicated I wanted to stick to basic ingredients and almost in a way let them speak for themselves. Though its such a versatile dish that an addition of chopped spinach or fenugreek leaves add nutritional value making it a meal in itself. The pleasure is in a spoonful of dal that has flavour, taste and is hearty. Or like I enjoy eating, taking a small piece of chapatti dunked in the dal to scoop up the lentils. This recipe includes moong dal the hulled & split variety which by far is a personal favourite for various reasons. Its lighter and easy to digest, cooks quicker than toor or channa dal and is a great everyday lentil to stock up on. If you cant get hold of it feel free to swap it for toor or masoor/ red lentil variety if those are more readily available. Also one other thing; I love using lots of garlic but I have reduced the amount in the list of ingredients to suit everyone’s taste. The consistency of dal is another thing that with a lot of people is a personal preference. But most people prefer a thick dal that has substance. I can’t think of a better meal than hot steaming rice, with dal ladled over and a serving of some spicy achar/pickle. Makes my day!


  1. In a medium sauce pan add the moong dal with the water and turmeric powder. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a medium, partially cover with lid and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Stir a few times through the cooking process. Add a little more water if the mix is too thick. Cool slightly and roughly mash with a potato masher or a hand blender and set aside.

  2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan heat the oil over medium heat, add the asafoetida, slit green chillies and cumin seeds; fry for a few seconds. Now add the curry leaves and garlic continue to fry for 5 seconds.Tadka Dal (2)

  3. Put in the tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes. At this stage, tip in the cooked dal and stir well. Season to taste, add a pinch of sugar, simmer gently for 2-3 minutes on a low heat stirring halfway through. Turn the heat off and add lemon juice and garnish with coriander. Serve hot with your choice of bread or plain rice.

    Note: If you’d like the dal to be thicker simmer for an additional 2 minutes without a lid making sure to stir well.