Dal Tadka ( Restaurant Style)

Dal Tadka is one of the most popular lentil dish served in Indian restaurants. Basically, dal tadka is cooked lentils which are tempered with oil or ghee fried spices & herbs.

I have to admit that I simply love the dal tadka that is served at the restaurants even though we hardly eat out.

So I try to recreate the restaurant magic in most of the food that I make at home. Here the restaurant style flavors come from smoking the dal using a red-hot charcoal.

Ingredients

For Cooking Lentils

  • ▢1 cup tuvar dal (arhar dal or split pigeon pea lentils) or 200 grams or ½ cup tuvar dal + ½ cup masoor dal (split pink lentils)
  • ▢1 to 2 green chilies or serrano peppers – chopped or slit lengthwise
  • ▢½ cup chopped onions or 1 medium sized onion
  • ▢1 cup finely chopped tomatoes or 2 medium sized tomatoes
  • ▢1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger or 1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • ▢½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ▢½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ▢1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • ▢2.5 cups water – for pressure cooking
  • ▢1 or 2 tablespoon low-fat cream – optional
  • ▢2 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • ▢salt as required

For Tempering Or Tadka

  • ▢3 tablespoon oil or 3 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
  • ▢1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ▢5 to 6 medium garlic cloves – finely chopped
  • ▢2 to 3 dry red chilies – broken and seeds removed
  • ▢a generous pinch of asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • ▢1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) – optional
  • ▢½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper or paprika

For Garnish

  • ▢1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

For Dhungar Method

  • ▢a small piece of charcoal
  • ▢¼ teaspoon oil or ghee (clarified butter)

Instructions

Cooking Lentils

  • Rinse the lentils and add them to a 3 litre pressure cooker. You can also cook the lentils in a pot. Just soak the lentils for an hour or two before you cook them in a pot.
  • To the lentils, add chopped onions, tomato, green chilies, ginger.
  • Add water. If cooking in a pot, then about 3 to 3.5 cups of water can be added.
  • Add turmeric powder and asafoetida. Mix very well.
  • Pressure cook the lentils for about 7 to 8 whistles or more till they become soft and creamy.
  • Mash the cooked lentils with a wired whisk or with a spoon and keep aside. If the consistency looks thick, then add some water to get a medium consistency. Then simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Once the desired consistency is reached, add low-fat cream (optional), garam masala powder, chopped coriander leaves and salt. Switch off the heat.
  • Mix well so that everything combines uniformly. Check salt before you add the tempering. If the salt is less than add more salt.

Dhungar Method (Optional)

  • Next is the dhungar method of flavoring the lentils with the smoky fumes of burnt charocal. For this with the help of tongs or on a grill pan, place the a small piece of charcoal like shown in the stepwise photo guide in the post.
  • Burn the charcoal till it becomes red hot. Please use natural charcoal for this method.note that this is an optional step and you can proceed directly to the tempering method.
  • Place the red hot charcoal in a small steel bowl.
  • Pour about ¼ teaspoon of oil or ghee on the charcoal. You will see fumes emanating as soon as you pour oil or ghee on the hot charcoal.
  • Place this bowl on the dal.
  • Cover the cooker or the pot with a lid and let the dal get infused with the charcoal smoke. Just keep for 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Do not keep for a longer time as the dal may turn bitter. Remove the bowl carefully with the helps of tongs and cover cooker with a lid. Set aside.

Making The Tempering (Tadka Or Chaunk)

  • Next heat oil or ghee in a small pan. First add cumin seeds and crackle them. The cumin should get fried and not be raw but don’t burn them.
  • Now add red chilies, asafoetida and chopped garlic. Let the garlic brown and the red chilies change color.
  • Lastly add kasuri methi and red chili powder. Mix and switch off the heat. Make sure to fry the tempering ingredients at a low flame, so that you don’t burn them.
  • Pour the entire tempering mixture into the dal.
  • You can mix the dal or serve the dal tadka with the tempering on top it. Garnish it with coriander leaves.
  • Serve dal tadka hot with steamed basmati rice, jeera rice (cumin rice) or with roti or naan or paratha.

How to make Dal Tadka

1. Rinse 1 cup tuvar dal or arhar dal (split & husked pigeon pea lentils) for a couple of times in water. Add them to a 3 litre pressure cooker.

rinsed lentils added in a stove pressure cooker

2. Add ½ cup chopped onions, 1 cup finely chopped tomatoes, 1 or 2 green chilies and 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger.

chopped onions, ginger, tomatoes and green chillies added to the lentils in the pressure cooker

3. Pour 2.5 cups of water. If cooking in a pot, then about 4 to 4.5 cups of water can be added.

water being added in the pressure cooker

4. Add ½ turmeric powder and 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing). If you do not have asafoetida, then skip it.

turmeric powder and asafoetida (hing) added in the pressure cooker

5. Mix well.

all the ingredients in the pressure cooker have been mixed well

6. Pressure cook the lentils for about 7 to 8 whistles or more till they become soft and creamy. Mash the cooked lentils with a wired whisk or with a spoon and keep aside.

lentils have been cooked and the consistency of cooked lentils shown in a large spoon

7. Once the desired consistency is reached, add 1 to 2 tablespoons low-fat cream (optional), ½ teaspoon garam masala powder, 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro) and salt as per paste. Switch off the the heat.

chopped cilantro (coriander leaves), salt, garam masala powder and cream added to the cooked lentils

8. Mix well so that everything combines uniformly. Check the salt before you add the tempering. If the salt is less than add more salt to the dal.

the ingredients mixed very well with the cooked lentils

9. The final consistency of the cooked dal.

consistency of the lentils or dal being shown with a large spoon

Optional – smoking or dhungar method

10. Next is the dhungar method of flavoring dal tadka with the smoky fumes of burnt charcoal. For this with the help of tongs or on a grill pan like shown in the photo below, place a small piece of charcoal.

Burn the charcoal till it becomes red hot. Please use natural charcoal for this method. Note that this is an optional step and you can proceed directly to the tempering method.

a small piece of charcoal kept on a wired pan and being burnt on a gas-stove flame

11. Place the red hot charcoal in a small steel bowl. You can also use onion layers or a halved hollow onion for the same.

red hot charcoal kept in a small steel bowl

12. Pour about ¼ tsp of oil or ghee on the charcoal. You will see fumes emanating as soon as you pour oil or ghee on the hot charcoal.

oil drizzled on the red hot charcoal has led to fumes emanating from the charcoal

13. Place this bowl on the dal.

the bowl with the charcoal and the fumes emanating from it has been kept on the dal in the pressure cooker

14. Cover the cooker or the pot with a lid and let the dal get infused with the charcoal smoke. Just keep for 1 to 2 minutes.

Do not keep for a long time as then the dal can taste bitter. Remove the bowl carefully with the help of tongs and cover the cooker with a lid. Set aside.

the pressure cooker has been covered with a lid for the dal to absorb the smoke from the charcoal

Making tempering or tadka

15. Next heat 3 tablespoons oil or ghee (clarified butter) in a small pan. First, add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and crackle them. The cumin should get fried and not be raw, but don’t burn them.

cumin seeds being fried in oil in a small round pan

16. Now add 2 to 3 dry red chilies, a generous pinch of asafoetida and 5 to 6 medium sized garlic cloves which have been finely chopped. Let the garlic brown and the red chilies change color. Do not burn the garlic.

dry red chillies, finely chopped garlic and asafoetida (hing) added in the pan

17. Lastly add 1 teaspoon crushed kasuri methi and ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper. Mix and switch off the stove. Make sure to fry the tempering ingredients at a low flame, so that you don’t burn them.

dry fenugreek leaves and red chilli powder added in the pan

18. Pour entire tempering along with the oil or ghee into the dal.

fried tempering ingredient added to the dal

19. You can mix the dal with tempering or serve the dal tadka with the tempering on top it. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve it hot with steamed basmati rice, cumin rice or with Indian flatbread like roti 

See the source image

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