Sri Lankan Masur Dal with Tamarind, Curry Leaves & Coconut Milk

December 28, 2010
7 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

A popular Sri Lankan Masur Dal dish that has a tangy taste of tamarind, creaminess from the coconut milk and the spicy aromatic flavors from the curry leaves & red chiles. Sri Lankan cuisine is a lot like the cuisine of South India. Curry leaves and coconut milk are a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine. You can serve this dal with steamed rice or chapatti. Please Note: All of the ingredients for this Dal recipe can be found in any Indian Grocers. - onetribegourmet —onetribegourmet

Test Kitchen Notes

This dal was a quick, easy and delicious dish. It was spicy from the chiles and cayenne, creamy from the coconut milk, and tart from the tamarind. The only thing I didn't love was that it had some tamarind strings floating around in it. I'd recommend mixing the pulp with a bit of hot water and straining it to get rid of any fibers. I used the smaller amount of water, and found the consistency perfect to serve over basmati rice. I've often made dal with coconut milk in the past, never with coconut milk and tamarind, and I think that's the key here. They work together beautifully, and the richness offsets the sourness/spiciness perfectly. —MaryMaryCulinary

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup masur dal, washed
  • 5 or less cups water {please note: start with less water like 3 cups and then you can always add more}
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 small shallots, finely chopped
  • 6-8 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 2-3 fresh red chiles, chopped
  • 1 heaping tablespoons Tamarind pulp (use the fresh thai brand which comes in a block)
  • 1 teaspoon dried coriander, ground
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  1. Put the dal & tamarind in a medium pot with the water & bring it to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.
  2. Add the coconut milk, salt, cayenne chile powder & turmeric to the dal and simmer for five minutes. Keep warm over very low heat
  3. For the Tempering mixture - Heat a wok or a heavy skillet over medium high heat and then add the oil. Now add the shallots & garlic until very lightly browned for 2 minutes.
  4. Now add to the same wok or skillet the curry leaves , red chiles, & ground coriander, mix well and cook for another minute or so. {please thaw out curry leaves and dry them with paper towel before putting them into the oil-it prevents hot oil from splattering all over the place}
  5. Add the tempering mixture of garlic,shallots, chiles, curry leaves & coriander into the dal.
  6. Simmer the dal for 5 more minutes on low heat.
  7. Serve with steamed basmati rice, naan or chapatti.
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  • Lisa Schultz
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Hi I'm Sara and I love the art of food & travel. I have a blog called One Tribe Gourmet, where I share my passion for global cuisine and my travel adventures around the world. I have always felt that food is the most common denominator that crosses all boundaries and brings people together. The ritual of “Breaking Bread” in every culture is a special bonding experience. Personally I love to experience different cultures through there cuisines! My goal here is to encourage an individual who is interested in learning different global cuisine yet is a bit intimidated by it. I am here to help you, all you have to do is open your heart!!!

27 Reviews

catydid February 20, 2022
Wow- so easy, fast and delicious! We keep curry leaves in the freezer and they are so essential to this flavor. But to have a thicker dal, we increased the Masur dal to nearly 2 cups, and used a full can of coconut milk (14oz) and only 2 cups of water. Used a bit more shallots and a fresh hot chili pepper in addition to the other spices, also more tamarind. So delicious. Added a dollop of plain yogurt when serving with brown rice. Yum!
Lisa S. December 17, 2015
My boyfriend loves this recipe so much I have to make a big pot at least twice a month! It's super easy and fast. I usually add chopped spinach right at the end for some color.
barbs-- April 6, 2015
Wow - absolutely fabulous. I didn't have curry leaves on hand, so substituted 3 bay leaves and a squeeze of lime (to taste). I'm a huge fan of tamarind, so doubled the amount in the dish. Half went in with the lentils as posted in the recipe above, and I tossed the other half in with the onion and garlic as they were browning and mixed it all together at the end. I'm very excited to try the original with the curry leaves as well!
JenPDX January 19, 2015
I've been making this recipe now for a couple of years. It's fabulous! Question though, the "dried coriander, ground". Is that dried leaves or ground seeds? "Dried" makes it sound like I should use leaves (cilantro). "Ground" makes it sound like I should use seeds... Been using ground seeds. Maybe I'll throw in some fresh cilantro though! But that might conflict with the curry leaves, which are so key to the flavor.
emcsull July 8, 2014
so does anybody think I could substitute white lentils for masoor dahl ? they look as though they would dissolve pretty fast too.
Nyasha June 19, 2013
Substituted (continued...)
1 onion for 2 shallots
3 tbsp crushed red pepper for 2-3 red chilies
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate for 1 tbsp tamarind pulp
1/4 tsp sage for 1/4 tsp tumeric
Nyasha June 19, 2013
Made this last night to rave reviews with modified ingredients. Can't wait to make it with all the intended components!
Trader Joe's Unsweetened Coconut Milk for traditional full fat canned coconut milk
AntoniaJames January 8, 2011
On my list for the weekend . . .but wondering, is light coconut milk okay? Thanks! ;o)
onetribegourmet January 8, 2011
Hi Antonia, I think light coconut milk should be fine! :)
Loves F. January 7, 2011
Amazing picture, this sounds (and looks) so good!
Loves F. January 7, 2011
Also, wondering if I could sub tamarind paste for the pulp?
onetribegourmet January 7, 2011
Thanks so much! Yes I actually prefer tamarind pulp more than the paste. I usually get mine from Thai grocers..Thai tamarind is the best..I think! :)
MaryMaryCulinary January 6, 2011
Woohoo--I managed to get this one for testing! I am going over to a Sri Lankan friend's place for lunch on Saturday and I'm going to bring this with me.
onetribegourmet January 6, 2011
oh wonderful Mary! it was my first time making a Sri Lankan dish..I'm not an expert..but it was alot of fun! please note that I made a typo error in the ingredients. last ingredient was suppose to be turmeric powder not tamarind. :)
onetribegourmet January 13, 2011
Thank you so much for the great review! I'm so glad you liked the recipe!
Sara :)
Midge January 1, 2011
I'm so happy to see this. I got hooked on dal in Sri Lanka. Can't wait to try your version.
onetribegourmet January 1, 2011
I would love to visit Sri Lanka one day! Thank you!
onetribegourmet December 31, 2010
PLEASE NOTE: My typo mistake: No Tamarind powder instead It was meant to be Turmeric powder. 1/4 tsp.
CookLikeMad December 31, 2010
This looks delicious! I'd like to make this, but I have a couple questions first: I see you call for turmeric in step 2 but it's not on the ingredient list. Also, where do I add the tamarind powder? Thanks so much! :)
onetribegourmet December 31, 2010
Thank you for pointing that was a typo...instead of turmeric powder I typed in tamarind poweder...oh jeez. so you will need 1/4 tsp turmeric powder.
CookLikeMad January 3, 2011
Thanks so much! I can't wait to try this. :)
onetribegourmet January 3, 2011
CookLikeMad - please dont hesitate to ask any questions you have about the recipe! I hope the recipe turns out great for you! :)
onetribegourmet December 29, 2010
Thanks so much! :)
gingerroot December 29, 2010
Yum, this looks amazing...such a great flavor combination. Last night I made a riff on a Mysore Mung bean salad that I made in a cooking class, but I used tamarind instead of lemon. I'm about to post it...
onetribegourmet December 29, 2010
oh sounds yummy...I love tamarind..It's a staple in my house. I recently bought fresh tamarind pods, the taste is amazing! :)
fortheloveofyum December 29, 2010
lovely-the tamarind and coconut milk are wonderful additions.
onetribegourmet December 29, 2010
Thanks Nadia! xo