Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


Everyday Dal

I think it is the quintessential South Indian dad thing: going to a “multi-cuisine” Indian restaurant with the family (whilst cribbing about the overwhelming flavor of Masala in every dish that rolls out of the kitchen). And raining on the parade by ordering a drab ‘ol Dal with his Phulka while the rest of us act specifically embarrassing, like kids in a candy shop, and drool all over the lengthy menu while trying to decide what to order. Oh, it gets worse. We would all ultimately end up over-ordering, thanks to all the excitement over the non-home cooked meal and would look towards Appa, asking him politely if he wanted some, subtly screaming for help with finishing off the meal. He would grimly shake his head and go on with demolishing his Dal, saving the proper dressing-down about wasting food (the take away box would never hold him back, no sir!) for later.

dal tadka3We’ve never been adventurous foodies at home, hence, we had a hand-full of restaurants that we would always frequent: Sree Ram Bhavan, Dhabba Express and later, Madras Race Club (where we set up camp and refused to go anywhere else since the late 90’s). Although the similarities between every restaurant we’ve visited were never stark, the plain Dal, I’ve noticed, were actual doppelgangers: it would always be Dal Tadka… which, as I grow older I find, is not as boring as I always thought it was. Tadka, in Hindi, simply means tempering. So Dal Tadka roughly means Tempered Dal.

It is my go-to Dal these days and we love it with Rotis, Phulkas (so that my dad’s spirit is happy) and Jeera rice. Today, I decided not to be lazy and went in search of a nice homestyle Pulao for the Dal. And as she has been for months now, Nags at Edible Garden came to my rescue. Her simple veggie Pulao, I discovered today, was the perfect compliment to my Dal Tadka. The only small substitution I made was using brown rice instead of white and my trusty slow/rice cooker came to my aid by cooking the best Pulao-worthy plain rice. So if you need the recipe for the awesome Pulao, you could follow the link to her blog and recipe on this post. As for the Dal Tadka, here is the recipe-

Dal Tadka

3/4 cup red gram Dal (Toor)

3/4 cup Mung Dal

Six pods of garlic and a small piece of ginger, chopped

Four Thai chili peppers, washed and stalks removed

One huge head of onion and two Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (separately)

Two dried red chilis, broken into halves

Two tsps salt

A pinch turmeric powder

One tsp each Jeera, Mustard seeds and Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

A pinch of Asafoetida powder

A tsp Am-Choor (dried mango powder) which you can substitute with fresh lime juice

Lots of fresh cilantro leaves

Wash the Dals together and soak them in warm water for half hour. Pressure cook/cook in your rice cooker or a saucepan with the Thai chilis, chopped ginger-garlic, turmeric powder, little salt until well-cooked. Fish out the chilis and whisk the cooked Dal. Heat oil in a pan and add the “Tadka” ingredients: Jeera, mustard, Nigella seeds and asafoetida. When it starts popping, add the onion and saute till translucent on med-low flame. Add the tomato now and cook until slightly mushy. Mix in the Dal with the Masala. When it starts boiling, switch off the heat. Stir in the Am-Choor/lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

dal tadka




Dal Revamped!

I love Dal. There, I said it. I love Dal in any form, Tuvar with little salt, turmeric and boiled in the traditional cooker (for eight whistles, as it is in my home), Moong like in the Kootu that was the star of one of my previous posts, Urad mashed up with Rajma in rich Dal Makhani or a mix of all of these in Panchratni Dal.

Dal or Paruppu as we call it in Tamil, is a comfort food with multiple Indian foundations. Since it needs no big introduction on my blog, I dive straight into the story. For a change, it is a short one.

A sleep-deprived me at 9 O’clock last night: Oh shoot! I haven’t made anything for dinner or tomorrow’s lunch.

The Mister (engrossed in tv): Err… um…

SD Me grabs my most favorite book of all from the kitchen. Tarla Dalal’s Punjabi Khana. I skim for a quick Dal recipe (and believe me, the book has loads!) and settle on Dal Amritsari. It needs Urad Dal and it needs to be soaked overnight. Now, knowing Urad, it really does need an overnight soak, for which I had no time or patience. I decide to use Moong instead. I have all the other condiments and spices this recipe calls for except onion. Darn! This is a flop show. I brainstorm… er… with myself and come up with a solution. My Indian pressure cooker comes to my aid.

SD Me (after maniacally skimming through the book while the better half sat oblivious, engrossed in watching some movie called Knowing)): Yay! I got the perfect recipe for tonight’s dinner. Life is bright again!

TM: Ooh yumm! I am sure it is going to be tasty, honey.

A very excited SD Me describes what I am making and TM nods along enthusiastically. The day was saved albeit a little late.

Here is a little bit of history on the dish for the ones who want to know: Amritsar is the spiritual capital for the Sikhs (I assume most of us know about the sect or have done enough research online in the recent past) It houses the beautiful Golden Temple which actually attracts more visitors that the Taj Mahal in India! This Dal is a native of the city and a tribute of sorts to beautiful Amritsar.

So here is the recipe, with my alterations.

My Dal Amritsari


3/4 cup Moong Dal

One tsp salt

Three huge garlic pods grated

One medium-sized tomato

One small piece of ginger cut into small pieces (I love the taste of ginger pieces in my food. If you don’t, go ahead and grate it too)

One small Thai green chili

One tsp Garam Masala (which is not curry powder, btw)

One tsp Amchur (optional but I love it for the tang. You get this in an Indian grocery store)

One tsp each coriander and cumin powder (on my latest grocery expedition to Atlanta, I found out that the Indian stores stock up a blend of coriander and cumin. Coolest!)

One Tbsp onion powder (my solution to the ongoing onion scarcity at home)

Quarter tsp cayenne pepper powder

A pinch turmeric powder

Half cup cream (you could substitute half the quantity with milk)

One tsp cumin seeds

Cilantro to garnish


Pressure cook (you could also use the electric cooker or a dutch oven) the dal with the onion powder, half the grated garlic, salt and two cups of water. When done, mash the mixture and add the cream. Keep aside. Heat a saute pan or a wok with one Tbsp butter and one Tbsp oil. Add the cumin seeds. When they start browning, add the tomato, chili, remaining garlic and all of the ginger. Saute on medium flame for three minutes. Now add the Garam Masala, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder, coriander-cumin powder and Amchur (if using). This mixture will form a Masala base for the Dal. When the oil separates from the mixture, add the Dal to it and adjust the seasonings. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

We ate this with oats in the night and with rice in the afternoon. Yummy!

So after dinner, the Mister: That was wonderful. What was it?

I guess some people are trained not to listen. Not that I mind because the element of surprise never ends 🙂


PS: I have just one small request. That is, comment. I love the zig-zag line my traffic graph forms on my dashboard. I have seen activity increase on this blog, which is my labor of love. The best thing you could do to make my day is comment, tell me what you think. I would love that!