Pakistani-style White Lentils with a Sizzling Oil Garnish

December 29, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves 3-4
Author Notes

Growing up in a Pakistani household, we would eat dal often. As a child, I was not fond of the soupy dal and preferred this variety because it did not have a gravy and could be eaten with naan. These white lentils, "urad" or "maash" dal can be found in any Indian/Pakistani grocery store. The lentils are easy to cook and the "tarka" or sizzling oil/tempered oil allows the flavors of the cumin seeds and curry leaves to blossom. - fortheloveofyum —fortheloveofyum

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe more than lived up to my expectations. The lentils themselves were tender and slightly creamy while retaining their shape; the crisp shallots, cumin, and curry leaves lent a wonderful depth which was balanced by the bright freshness of the cilantro, ginger, and mint added at the end; and the sizzling oil garnish makes for one beautiful presentation. This dish provides a wonderful composition of flavors, colors and textures, as delightful to the eye as it is to the palate. I've been trying to learn more about Indian and Pakistani cuisine, and this recipe is one I'm happy to add to my repertoire. —lastnightsdinner

What You'll Need
  • for the lentils
  • 1 cup urad dal
  • 2 cups scant water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • a nice pinches of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tomato, finely chopped
  • for the sizzling oil garnish or tarka
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • the leaves from 2 branches of curry leaves (found in Indian/Pakistani grocery stores)
  • 4-5 whole dried red chilies, I use the small round ones
  • handful chopped cilantro
  • 5 mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, julienned
  • 1 green chili, julienned
  1. In a medium-sized saucepan bring the water to a boil on medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Add in the urad dal, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, and tomato. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, until the water has evaporated and when you press on the dal between your fingers, it mashes easily. The grains should be separate, not mushy.
  3. Place the dal into your serving dish.
  4. Next, in a frying pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and begin to fry it. After 3 minutes add in the cumin seeds, curry leaves, whole dried red chilies and fry all of the items together until the onions turn golden brown.
  5. When the onions are golden, pour the hot oil mixture over the lentils. Then, finish garnishing with the ginger, cilantro, mint leaves, and the green chili. Serve with naan or chapati.
  6. *When you are making the sizzling oil garnish/tarka, you may want to run your exhaust fan during this process because it may cause you to cough a bit.
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  • Travis Martin
    Travis Martin
  • lastnightsdinner
  • onetribegourmet
  • healthierkitchen
  • wssmom

28 Reviews

Travis M. January 11, 2017
Great and simple recipe.. I omitted the curry leaves because I didn't have them, and it still turned out great. I'm going to come back to this so much..
lastnightsdinner January 14, 2011
Just further to my notes above, thank you so much for this wonderful recipe :) I can't wait to make it again!
fortheloveofyum January 14, 2011
Thank you so much for your kind notes! I am really glad you liked the dish. If you have any questions on Indian and Pakistani cooking, don't hesitate to ask me. :)
onetribegourmet January 13, 2011
Congrats sweets ob the Editors Pick!!!! Love your recipe!
fortheloveofyum January 13, 2011
thanks so much and congrats to you as well! :)
healthierkitchen January 4, 2011
I definitely have to try this! Would you serve this as a main dish with naan or would you make something along with it?
fortheloveofyum January 4, 2011
You can serve this as a main dish with naan, but my (large) appetite likes to eat it as a side dish (w/ naan) with a meat main dish or another vegetable curry. :)
wssmom January 1, 2011
An Indian/Pakistani grocery store just opened nearby and I am headed there this week to get the ingredients for this wonderful-sounding dish!!!
fortheloveofyum January 1, 2011
thanks! you should be able to find everything you need at the store. :) do let me know how it turns out!
mrslarkin January 1, 2011
this sounds like a winner! I can't wait to gather all the ingredients and try this one. BTW, are you Shayma's sister??
fortheloveofyum January 1, 2011
thanks mrs. larkin! do let me know how it turns our or if you have any questions. no, i'm not shayma's sister, she is a friend i met through the blogging world. :)
Sagegreen January 1, 2011
Looks gorgeous and sounds wonderful!
fortheloveofyum January 1, 2011
thank you!
Midge January 1, 2011
Sounds absolutely delicious.
fortheloveofyum January 1, 2011
thank you midge! :)
Jennifer A. December 31, 2010
This looks wonderful!
fortheloveofyum December 31, 2010
Thanks so much, Jennifer Ann!
CafeAnna December 30, 2010
This looks great! I never know what to do with urad dal--I'll try this! Your other recipes look amazing as well! Thanks for sharing them.
fortheloveofyum December 31, 2010
Thanks, CafeAnna. :)

Here's another option for urad dal- you can also use urad daal as a fried dal. The same way you make a curry starting by frying onions, ginger, garlic, the dal, spices, tomatoes, and adding water and cooking it until it is absorbed and garnishing with ginger julienne, cilantro, and some fresh lime juice. hehe maybe I should post that recipe as well ;)
CafeAnna February 6, 2011
Hello! I tried both your methods of making urad dal. The one you posted was okay the first day but by the third day it was delicious as it melted into a buttery soft flavor. I just made the fried version you gave the tip on and loved it right away and ate lots for lunch today...not sure it will be there for the third day but am looking forward to tasting it again on day 2 for sure!! Thanks for getting me into urad dal! Looking forward to more postings from you!
fortheloveofyum February 6, 2011
Yeah, the way I posted does usually taste better after a day, because the flavors meld together and this dal is buttery. I'm glad it eventually worked out for you. I love this kind of dal, I feel it has a more distinct flavor than red lentils or moong dal. Thanks for your input! :)
lastnightsdinner December 29, 2010
I've never heard of these lentils but now I need to find them - beautiful dish!
fortheloveofyum December 30, 2010
Thanks so much! I love these lentil because they are slightly nutty. Since you're in Providence (I grew up outside Prov) you can find these lentils at Not Just Spices on Hope Street or Spices and Things on Mineral Spring Ave in N. Prov. Hope you try them out. :)
lastnightsdinner December 30, 2010
Not Just Spices is right up the street - I'll definitely look for them there! Thanks!
onetribegourmet December 29, 2010
My favorite Lentil! My mouth is watering! Your recipe is a winner! :)
fortheloveofyum December 30, 2010
my fav as well! thanks, sara :)
hardlikearmour December 29, 2010
This sounds really yummy. Love the sizzling oil!
fortheloveofyum December 29, 2010
thanks so much!