Creamy Tadka Dal with Roti

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I loved the combination of textures and colors from the mix of beans in this creamy dal. The recipe was a “staff favorite” in Food and Wine, contributed by Antara Sinha. It was included an article titled “Good to the Last Sop: Cozy Dinners That Deliver Endless Comfort.” The original recipe includes instructions to make homemade roti to serve with the dal to sop it up. 🙂

We ate this dish with store-bought roti but I included the roti recipe from the original article below. I wish I had made the homemade roti because we tragically did not enjoy the store-bought version. (Homemade is always better!) I served the dal over brown Basmati rice with steamed spinach on the side. Hearty and delicious vegetarian comfort food.

For the Dal:

  • 3/4 cup dried moong dal (split yellow mung beans) (about 5½ ounces) 
  • 3/4 cup dried masoor dal (split red lentils) (about 5 ounces) 
  • 3/4 cup dried chana dal (split bengal gram) or dried toor dal (split pigeon peas) (about 5Âľ ounces) 
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric 
  • 6 to 7 cups water, divided 
  • 1 ½ tablespoons canola oil 
  • 4 green cardamom pods, crushed, shells discarded 
  • 4 whole cloves 
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons cumin seeds  
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)  
  • 2 medium-size fresh serrano or jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded if desired, and finely chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (about 1 cup) 
  • ÂĽ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish 

For the Roti:

  • 2 cups atta (Indian whole-wheat flour) (about 8 5/8 ounces), plus more for dusting 
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water, divided 
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • melted ghee, for brushing 

For the Tadka:

  • 3 tablespoons ghee 
  • 3 small dried chiles (such as Diaspora Co. Whole Sannam Chillies), or more to taste (I used Bird’s Eye)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

To Serve:

  • brown Basmati rice, optional
  • steamed spinach, optional

To Start the Dal:

  1. Stir together moong dal, masoor dal, chana (or toor) dal, salt, turmeric, and 6 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. (I used a medium enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low; partially cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until dal is soft and tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Add up to remaining 1 cup water, 1/4 cup at a time, until desired thickness and consistency is reached.

To Make the Roti Dough:

  1. Stir together atta, 3/4 cup water, and salt in a medium bowl. Knead mixture in bowl until all dry flour is incorporated, adding remaining 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if needed to incorporate flour.
  2. Transfer dough to a clean work surface; knead until stretchy and slightly sticky, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Shape dough into a ball, and return to bowl. Cover with a clean towel; let stand at room temperature until dough is smooth and matte, about 30 minutes.

To Season the Dal:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-size heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium.
  2. Add cardamom, cloves, and cumin; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Add onion and chopped fresh chiles; cook, stirring often, until onion is lightly browned around edges, 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add tomato; cook, stirring often, until tomato begins to break down, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Add tomato mixture and cilantro to dal mixture; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt.
  6. Cover and keep warm over low.

To Cook the Roti:

  1. Once roti dough has rested, turn out onto a work surface lightly dusted with atta.
  2. Divide dough evenly into 16 pieces (about 1 ounce each).
  3. Working with 1 dough piece at a time and keeping remaining pieces covered with a towel, shape dough into a ball. Dust ball thoroughly with atta, and flatten slightly. Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a circle until uniformly thin and about 6 inches in diameter. Rotate the disk 90 degrees after each roll, flipping and dusting with atta occasionally to make a perfect circle. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
  4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high. Place 1 roti round in skillet; cook until bubbles start to form and bottom is speckled with brown spots, 30 to 45 seconds. Flip roti using tongs; cook until it puffs up completely and is evenly cooked on both sides, 30 to 45 seconds. (Small charred spots are delicious and totally OK.) If roti doesn’t completely puff up, pat the top using a clean towel to encourage it to inflate.
  5. Remove roti from skillet, and brush both sides lightly with melted ghee; transfer to a serving plate. Repeat process with remaining roti rounds and ghee.

To Make the Tadka & to Serve:

  1. In a small skillet, heat ghee over medium-high. Add dried chiles and cumin to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until cumin is toasted and fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Divide dal mixture among bowls, and drizzle each portion with desired amount of warm tadka. (I served it over brown Basmati rice.)
  3. Sprinkle with additional cilantro, and serve alongside hot roti and steamed spinach, as desired.

Note: Dal can be prepared (without the tadka) 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in refrigerator.

Khatti Dal (Sour Lentils), Hyderabad-Style

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I have finally completed my mission to make all four types of dal described in the New York Times article “New York Dals.” This last one, Khatti Dal, may have been the fastest to make. I did not have the toor dal (yellow lentils) called for in the recipe and substituted chana dal (split chickpeas).  Once again, I used a balloon whisk as a stand-in for an Indian mathani to puree the dal; the resulting dish had a little more texture than the others. The “sour” comes from the addition of lime juice or tamarind concentrate- nice! This recipe is from the New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. I doubled the recipe (to ensure plenty of leftovers), and served it over brown basmati rice with green salad (instead of sautĂ©ed spinach) and naan on the side. Delicious vegetarian comfort food- I am ready to start the rotation over again!  🙂

Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: about 4 servings
  • 1 cup yellow lentils (toor dal) or chana dal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon green chili or jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate or 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil, or other neutral oil such as grape seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (1-2 cloves)
  • 12 curry leaves (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Combine the dal, turmeric, chili, salt and 4 cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles aggressively and steadily and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
  2. Add the tamarind concentrate and 1/2 cup additional water, and let bubble for another minute. Turn off the heat. Use an Indian mathani (or whisk) to purée the dal for about 1 minute; the dal should be saucy but not soupy. IMG_7084
  3. To make the tadka, heat the oil in a small saucepan over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and cover the pan; let the seeds pop and sizzle. When the popping begins to subside, add the garlic and cook until lightly browned, about 15 seconds. Add the curry leaves, if you’re using them. Cover the pan (to prevent spattering) and cook for about 10 seconds, allowing flavors to meld.
  4. Pour the tadka into the dal; stir gently to combine. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

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