Pakistani-style White Lentils with a Sizzling Oil Garnish

December 29, 2010
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

  • Serves 3-4
  • 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
In This Recipe
  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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