A steaming bowl of white, soft, pillowy basmati rice drizzled with aromatic, mildly spiced Tadka Daal was what childhood lunches were made of for me, back in the 90’s. This easy and frugal meal happened to be me and my brother’s favourite and we would often shun more fancy curries and rice dishes only to enjoy this seemingly simple meal.
There’s something soothing about the effortless and smooth texture of daal – something that can never quite be outdone by fancier and heavier meat and cream-based dishes.
Till today, this Tadka Daal with white basmati rice is what I turn to after a few too many days of eating foods too rich and oily – when my stomach needs a break from extravagance, this simple vegetarian meal really hits the spot and I’m very certain all my readers from the South of Asia will agree with me!
Daal of all kinds are a great thing to serve – they seem to pair well with everything! Rice and chapatti are both great accompaniments to it. Lamb, fish and chicken curries all go well with a side of Daal, although I’m more inclined to favour fish with Daal. Various vegetables are also cooked with Daal, including bottle gourd, pumpkin and spinach. Daal is pretty fine on it’s own as well, as a soup!
And don’t you worry about the next day because Daal with a paratha and achaar (pickle) the next day will have breakfast sorted for you!
Is there anything Daal can’t do? There really is no wonder why it’s so loved by the South Asian subcontinent!
Today, I’m sharing my recipe for Tadka Daal the way I remember my Mother making it when me and my brother were small. It was thin, yellow and spiced very lightly, with the flavours of the garlic and onion really shining through and we’d eat it perched on the kitchen shelf, watching my Mother go on with the rest of her kitchen duties.
My Mother always has been and still is a very simple cook and her Daal is really an epitome of how a heavy hand on the spices isn’t always the best thing to do. I would never describe myself as a simple cook, but some classics like this one make me take a step back from my spice cabinet and respect the fact that very often, it is in simplicity that we find perfection.
Enjoy, with love x
- 1/3 cup moong daal lentils
- 2/3 cup red lentils (masoor)
- salt, to taste
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- Wash your lentils well, then add 4-5 cups of water and all the powdered spices. Bring to a boil then cover with the lid slightly ajar and allow to simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the lentils are tender and integrated with the water. Make sure you keep an eye on the lentils to make sure it isn't sticking to the bottom. Add water as needed.
- Add a handful of chopped coriander to the top of the daal
- To prepare the tadka, in a separate pan heat the oil and add your sliced onion and garlic. Fry till they become golden brown - but not black! During the last 30 seconds, add the cumin seeds
- Once the tadka is ready, pour directly over the coriander leaves on the daal.
- Tadka Dal is ready! Serve with white basmati rice or chapatti or on it's own - anyway you fancy, really!
I'll be honest with you all and tell you I couldn't help myself and added the coriander powder. My Mother never uses and probably doesn't even own coriander powder! Omit this if you like - it tastes fine without it too.