My Mom's Daal - Indian Red Lentil Stew

Daal photography © ShulieMadnick
My mom's daal recipe was one of the first recipes I published on Foodwanderings over ten years ago. Since then, I made it at least once a week. I revisited the recipe writing recently when I published the daal recipe in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz, a progressive newspaper in Israel. Other articles and recipes I published in the past were translated into Hebrew, but this was my first time publishing in Hebrew. It feels like coming a full circle. I also photographed the daal a couple of months ago on the concrete floor of a West Elm store nearby. You can see the stark difference between the point and shoot ten years ago to the Nikon I use today. I also spelled it dahl way back when. Some spell it simply, dal.

My mom adds three different lentils to this daal. 

Follow foodwanderings on Instagram for step by step recipes on IG Stories and subscribe to receive a newsletter on the right hand column of this blog and to "Beyond the Bagel" on Apple podcasts.

My Mom's Daal 


1/2 cup red and 1/2 cup yellow lentils (or 1 cup lentils red or golden lentils)
1 medium onion, diced
5 - 6 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 small/medium tomato, diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 - 1 jalapeño or Thai chili, halved lengthwise and sliced into thin moon-shaped discs
10 curry leaves, torn, optional
4 cups water

See authors notes below for optional variations.


Add the  3 - 4  tablespoons oil into a medium pot on medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and chilis, mix and sauté for several minutes until the onion is soft and translucent but not caramelized while mixing occasionally. Add the tomato and cook for a couple minutes longer while mixing occasionally. Add lentils, 4 cups of water, turmeric and salt to taste, mix and bring to a boil on high heat. Immediately after the daal reaches a boiling point, mix and turn down the heat to low/medium, low bubble, mix again and cover with a lid.

Tadka; Tempering Whole Seeds:

Add 2 - 3 tablespoons remaining oil into a skillet on medium/high heat. When the oil is heated, add the mustard seeds. They will sizzle immediately and start to pop (jump and explode in the air). Quickly add the cumin seeds and shake the skillet gently for a couple of seconds. Add the curry leaves, if desired. The curry leaves will crisp immediately. Quickly remove from the heat and dd the mustard and cumin seeds and curry leaves into the daal. The daal will sizzle as you pour the tempered spices and leaves into the pot. Use caution throughout the entire tempering process. 

Cook the daal covered, with a lid on, on a low bubble for 20 - 30 minutes or until the lentils are very soft and fall apart completely. Throughout the cooking process, stir occasionally and adjust the heat if necessary so you won't scorch at the bottom of the pot. Mash the garlic cloves inside the daal and mix
Serve over basmati rice. The recipe can be doubled! Freezes well. 

Author's Notes on Variations:

1. You can add some grated fresh ginger when you sauté the onions and finely chopped cilantro as a garnish before serving. 

2. You can add kale or chard in the last few minutes of the cooking. And tempered dry red chilis in 1 -2 tablespoons oil as well. 

3. I steer away from garam masala called for in some recipes. 

4. The daal will thicken refrigerated overnight.

5. If you wish for a creamier consistency add a splash of coconut milk or cream into the daal. 

No comments:

Post a Comment