There are probably as many versions of the Indian Dahl as the are Indian cooks. And of those there are a lot!
In my world, having an Indian meal without Dahl is like being given a bowl of ice cream without a spoon. You simply cannot have one without the other.
When looking at the menu at your local Indian restaurant you may see two kinds of Dahl: Dahl Tadka and Dahl Makhani. The Tadka is made with red lentils as its base whereas the Makhani is made using black lentils, and sometimes also kidney beans, and has cream added.
My preferred kind is the Dahl Tadka as I find that Dahl Makhani, as flavorful as it is, is too heavy due to the added cream.
Below is my version of the Dahl Tadka. It is quick but very flavorful and full of healthy goodness. I never serve an Indian meal without it.
I like a bit of spice, so my recipe contains fresh chili. Leave this out if your tongue is a bit on the sensitive side or by all means add more if you prefer to blow your socks off!
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 large red chili, cut into chunks optional
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium sized yellow onion halved and then thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- Fresh coriander to serve optional
To cook the lentils:
- In a pot with lid, combine the lentils, water, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili (if using), and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils break apart completely, about 30 minutes.
To cook the onions:
- Meanwhile, grab a frying pan and heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds until you start smelling the cumin, then lower the heat and gently fry the onions until nicely browned. This process generally takes about 20 minutes but can take more or less time depending on the heat of your pan and the thickness of the onion slices. Be careful not to burn the onions. They should be evenly brown but still soft when they are done.
- Once everything has finished cooking add the onions to the lentils, mix well, adjust the seasoning if needed, and serve immediately sprinkled with some fresh coriander if you like.