India is a profoundly diverse country culinarily - over and above many other ways. Recipes, cooking techniques, preferences and eating styles differ every few kilometers. Hence it is utterly ridiculous to think of Indian cuisine as a monolith. At best it is a hyper-regional cuisine and which one can spend a lifetime knowing and understanding. In the midst of this heterogenous cookery landscape, few dishes like dal stand out for being widely known and consumed. Dal chawal - lentils and rice - is everyday meal for millions of Indians across 28 states. India prepares many types of dal - of course! Chana dal, mung dal, urad dal, toor dal and masur dal - West and South India eat toor dal, while North India prefers a variety - mung, masur or chana dal. We give you the recipe for a simple toor dal. Pair it with rice and enjoy THE most satiating comfort food.
For 2 people
Cooked toor dal - Advanced Ingredient 1
3/4 cup toor dal or split pigeon peas
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil or ghee
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 pinch hing
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1 tsp lime/lemon juice
1 Thai chili pepper diced into thin, round slices (optional)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)
Cooked toor dal - Advanced Ingredient 1
Take a thick bottomed pot and pour 3/4 cup toor dal into it.
Wash it well several times till the drained water runs clear
Let it soak for 15 minutes
If using Instant Pot - Add 2.5 cups water to the washed dal and pressure cook on high - set to 20 minutes
If using thick-bottomed pot - Add 2.5 cups water to the washed dal and place it on medium heat, Keep an eye on it and cook for about 30-40 min till the dal becomes soft & mushy.
You will stop here and let the cooked toor dal cool down if you are not planning to make dal on that day. Store in the refrigerator in a clean glass container.
Please feel free to cook toor dal a day or two before too.
If you are planning on eating dal chawal the same day, whisk the dal. You should not be able to see individual dal after whisking.
Add 1 cup water to the cooked dal, follow with turmeric & mix well. The consistency of the dal should be thicker than that of a broth.
Putting Dal together
If using thai chili pepper dice into thin, round slices
Empty out the dal if you are using the same pot you used to boil the dal for the final step of putting the dish together. Rinse this pot and wipe it with a clean kitchen towel. Heat 1 tbsp ghee or oil in it at medium heat.
After a minute, add one mustard seed. If the seeds starts sizzling as soon as it hits the oil/ghee, the temperature of the oil/ghee is right for the rest of the seeds. If not, wait for another minute or so. Repeat with a single mustard seed.
Follow with the rest of 1/4 tsp mustard seeds & 1/4 tsp cumin seeds. Seeds will start popping, so be careful.
Once the seeds stop popping, add hing & thai chile pepper.
Turn the heat off after peppers change color to charred, pale green.
Pour the whisked dal into the tadka gently and turn the heat to medium now
Combine 1/2 tsp salt, pinch of sugar and 1tsp lime juice into the dal.
Let dal come to a rolling boil
Garnish with cilantro
The absolute best way to eat dal is to mix it with white rice or jeera rice. Top with a generous swirl of ghee and serve hot.
Jeera rice is an undemanding way to embellish rice and dress it up for occasions or parties. Use basmati rice. Just sauté it in cumin seeds tempered in ghee and proceed to cook the rice the way you do regularly. The cumin flavor picks up as the rice cooks and you end up with a good looking, lightly accented rice with a light brown, golden sheen. The recipe below is for stovetop cooking of rice. Feel free to use a rice cooker, Instant Pot or any method of cooking rice of your choice.
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp ghee or butter (salted or unsalted)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp table salt
1 Thick bottomed pot
Wash rice under running water 2-3 times or until water that you drain off runs clear. Set it aside.
Heat butter or ghee at medium heat in a thick bottomed pot.
Add cumin seeds and let them sputter, which will take 2-3 minutes
Pour the washed rice and stir well till the moisture sticking to the rice evaporates and each grain becomes toasty and distinct. This will take about five minutes.
Add 1 3/4 cup water.
Keep an eye on rice.
Once the water evaporates, cover the pot.
After 5 minutes, take a grain in between your thumb and index finger and squish. If you can crush easily, rice is ready. If not ready, check again in 2-3 minutes.
It's best to make jeera rice about 30 minutes before you are ready to eat.