Dal Chicken to me is the perfect balance between getting a healthy dose of fibre-filled, nutritious lentils in, as well as satisfying that desire (need) for a cheeky bit of chicken.
Dal Chicken is the less commonly known brother of the more popular Dal Gosht, which is cooked with red meat. This version is equally as delicious and holds the obvious benefit of cooking quicker AND being cheaper.
Usually when I begin to cook something with the intention of getting a written recipe down for it, I have my notebook out on the counter, jotting down quantities and details. If it’s a recipe I’ve been working on for a while I’ll have the full details of my previous attempts alongside notes on what was amiss or too much. When it comes to ‘the one’, the final recipe, I’ll take pictures of the entire process to upload onto the blog & my Instagram. I think this is how most bloggers develop recipes (bloggers, correct me if I’m wrong!)
Anyway, on the fateful day I made this Dal Chicken recipe, it came out PERFECT the first time. I was shook. I totally wasn’t expecting it to come out so good the first time because to be totally honest with you all I’ve never been GREAT at cooking Dal with any meat.
I’ll explain why.
My usual method of Dal Chicken/Gosht was previously always a one-pot method.
I’d fry the onions and tomatoes into a masala, then add the lentils and meat and cook it. Now, the problem with this was that more often than not, the lentils would take too long to cook. And in order to get the lentils to be done through, I’d end up with meat that had fallen off the bone and become mush. I tried SO many times to get the timing right, and sometimes I would, but most of the times it would be a miserable fail. It was pretty frustrating not being able to develop a fool-proof, no-fail method.
Of course, I had seen other recipes and people cook the lentils separately before adding them in to the masala and meat – but I just felt really bitter and unhappy about having to use two pots (I know, petty, right?!) and wanted to find THE SECRET to making it all in one pot.
The fateful day I made this Dal Chicken curry, I cooked the lentils separately because I just couldn’t face another wasted dinner or tough lentils in my mouth.
And… it was … PERFECT. I felt like I had found the missing piece of this elusive puzzle.
Now, I don’t fully understand the complete logistics of why the one-pot method didn’t work for me. I feel like it may be due to the fact that lentils have a variable timing of how long it takes to cook which can depend on soak time, temperature, age of lentils to name some reasons. I don’t think I ever will know the reason fully. I know LOTS of people make it all in one pot. But ya know what, lots of people make it in two pots. And whatever works for me, I will not question!
This method basically involves boiling the chana dal separately until it is just done, but not disintegrating into a soup. In another pot, you cook your chicken just like you would for a regular chicken curry. Once the chicken is half way done, you add in the chana dal alongside the water which you boiled the dal in, until the chicken is done. Finally, we’ll add a tadka – a tempering – of beautiful slivers of onions, cumin seeds and dried red chillis. Honestly guys, this is a curry to die for!
The day I cooked this up, my husband enjoyed it SO much he went in to ask me exactly what I did, particular in the tadka, because it was so rich and flavoursome and he wanted to replicate it. A good tadka goes a looooong way, folks.
Tips for Your Dal Chicken
- You can boil the chana dal in advance and store in the fridge, to use when you’re ready. It would be a good idea to reserve the water too, as it contains a lot of flavour that we’ll be using in the curry
- I like to keep the chana dal in the same pot as I cook it and when it’s needed, I use a slotted spoon to transfer the dal into the chicken pot.
- You will need to add back quite a lot of water into the curry. Daals have a tendency to absorb a lot of moisture, therefore be prepared to adding back quite a lot of the chana dal water. In fact, even after you finish cooking the curry the lentils will continue to absorb moisture therefore you may feel the need to add additional water if you plan on eating it later
- For the best tadka, you need to stay close by and stir constantly on a medium heat. It’s very tempting to cook the tadka on a high heat, however this will result in your onions not browning evenly and maybe even burning, which will ruin the flavour of the curry
- You can slice a few cloves of garlic too, if you like a prominent garlicky taste, to add to the tadka. Add them in a few moments before you add the cumin seeds
- If you won’t be serving this immediately, don’t add the tadka. Save the tadka for just before serving.
On to the recipe! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take process pictures of this because I wasn’t expecting it turn out so good on the first try! I’ll add process pictures the next time I make this – which should be soon given how tasty this was!
Enjoy, with love x
For the Chicken
- 3tbsp oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1/2 bulb garlic, minced
- 1 medium sized chicken, bone in, curry cut (mine weighed 875g)
- 3 tsp salt, or to taste
- 0.5 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 4 small tomatoes, chopped
For the Chana Dal
- 1 cup chana dal, soaked for at least one hour
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
For the Tadka
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1.5 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp cumin seeds
- 4 dried red chillis
- Start by putting all the chana dal ingredients to boil on a medium high heat with lots of water. Cook these until they are just cooked through, but still holding their shape. Reserve the cooking water
- Separately, heat oil in a deep pot and add the chopped onions. Fry till these are transluscent and lightly golding
- Add the garlic, all the spices and the chicken. Fry this all well until the chicken begins to brown
- Add the chopped tomatoes, cover and simmer for 15 minutes
- Once the simmer time is up, uncover and add in the chana dal, as well as about one cup of the reserved water
- Bring it all to a boil, then cover and simmer again on low for 20 minutes. You will likely need to add more water, so keep checking and topping up the water if necessary. Remember, this curry has a tendency to absorb a lot of water, therefore keep the curry a bit more liquidy than appears to be enough
- Once the the curry is ready, start on the tadka. Heat up the tadka oil in a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the onions. Stir the onions constantly, allowing them to become a golden colour. Once you're at a light golden shade, add the cumin and dried red chillis. Continue to fry and stir until the onions become a dark golden. Immediately take off the heat and pour the oil over the Chicken Dal
- Serve immediately!
If you are using a chicken that takes longer to cook, e.g. hardboiler chicken, add half a cup of water alongside the tomatoes and cook for a total of half an hour, or as long as it takes to get the chicken almost done