Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dal Fry

Cousins visit from India and at the end of their trip meal requests comprise of the taste of home. So dal is on the menu. Having eaten dal since forever, I mull over my choices. Back home dal made an every day appearance. Toor is the popular choice, but moong, masoor and chana come on strong as well. Native to each state, dal is paramount to every meal. Each dal has a distinct taste, different cooking times, colors ranging from pale yellow, black and white to pinkish red. Walk down the lentil aisle in an ethnic grocery and be dazzled by the broad color spectrum. Leaving all this frippery aside, lentils really are a solid source of good, cheap protein. And so ends the leguminous talk. 

To get on with my choice, I opt for a blend of toor and chana dal, which I soak for a few hours. Both these dals cooked together, make a homogenous sturdy blend. Chana dal cooks up softer if it is soaked for a while before cooking. Pressure cooked dal is the easiest and fastest way to make dal. The alternative, stove top cooked, is much longer and tedious process. I am a PC fan and will use this device happily. Once the dal is cooked, I make the tarka or the tempered spice paste that lends much needed flavor to bland dal. Browned onions, tomatoes, curry leaves, chiles, garlic, ginger, a bunch of spice powders and lots of lime juice aids the transformation. This is not a thin, soupy dal, but a thick, scoopable mass of spiced lentils. One tempting dal fry coming to the table. 

Serves 4

1/2 cup Toor Dal or split Pigeon Peas
1/4 cup Chana Dal or yellow Split Peas
A pinch of Asefoetida
1 Onion
1 Green Chile
3 Garlic cloves 
1 tablespoon Ginger, finely chopped
10 Curry Leaves
1 Tomato 
2 tablespoons Canola Oil 
3 tablespoons chopped Cilantro plus more to garnish 
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon Chile powder 
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt 
1/2 Lime, juiced

Wash both dals well. Cover dals with an inch of water and let them soak for 2-3 hours.

Pressure cook dals with asafoetida, for 20 minutes. Cool, whisk well and keep aside. Alternatively, bring dals to boil, cover and simmer for an hour or till mushy. Stir often. Add more water as needed.  

Chop onion and tomato finely.

Chop garlic and chile finely.

Heat oil in a pan.

Add onion. Saute till golden brown.

Drop garlic, ginger, chile, curry leaves and 3 tablespoons of cilantro and saute on a high flame for 5 minutes. 

Add tomato, turmeric, chile powder, garam masala and cooked dal to onions. Stir well.

Season with salt.

Lower flame and simmer dal for another 5 minutes. 

Pour lime juice over dal and stir to mix.

Garnish with remaining cilantro and pair with roti or rice.

Dal is comfort food, the essential component, for generations of Indians. A feisty aroma fills the kitchen as the pot bubbles. Everyone waits with anticipation for dinner. The Indians feast on homeland favorites...most popular being a bowl of lentils. Nothing wimpy about this dal..just asserting itself strongly amongst the other contenders.