Directions 14 steps | 40 Minutes
Measure and prep all ingredients.
Cook the dal. Rinse the pigeon peas with water thoroughly at least three to four times until the water runs clear for the last rinse. Soak the lentils in water for at least 30 mins, up to a few hours. (See notes 3.)
Drain the soaked water, add three cups of fresh water to the lentils and transfer to a deep cooking pot. Add turmeric and salt. (See notes 4.)
Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the lentils are soft and mushy. Continuously remove the scum that rises to the top. Stir every 5 minutes to prevent the lentils from sticking to the base of the pot.
While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion-tomato mix in a separate shallow pan. Turn the stove to medium-low heat. Add the oil (or ghee) to a shallow, wide pan. Once it becomes hot, add the cumin seeds.
Once the cumin seeds start spluttering, add in the ginger-garlic paste, turmeric, chili powder and chopped green chile. Cook for a few seconds until they start releasing their aroma. Be careful not to burn the spices.
Add the chopped onions. Mix well and cook until the raw smell dissipates and they turn translucent.
Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt. Mix well and cook covered for 5 minutes until all the tomatoes are fully softened.
Open the lid of the pot and check on the lentils – they should be fully cooked and have a soft and mushy texture. If the cooked lentils look too thick, adjust the consistency by adding some hot water. Add the onion-tomato mix to the cooked lentils and mix well.
Turn the heat back to medium-high and cook the lentil mixture for 5-7 minutes for the flavors to meld. Stir once or twice. Adjust the seasoning by adding salt, if needed. Add the ¼ cup of chopped cilantro leaves. Mix well.
Prepare the tempering. In a small pan, heat the ghee (or oil). Add in the cumin seeds and fry until they start to splutter.
Add asafoetida, curry leaves and dried red chiles. Cook for 30-40 seconds and remove from heat.
Pour the hot mixture over the dal. Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander leaves.
The dal tadka is ready to be served hot with rice or any Indian flatbread. Enjoy!
- For a vegan version, use oil instead of ghee.
- To make a gluten-free dal tadka, skip adding asafoetida to the tempering.
- It helps reduce the cooking time of the lentils, especially when not using a pressure cooker.
- You can also use a pressure cooker. Cook on medium-high heat for three whistles. After that, let the pressure release naturally before opening the lid.
- To add the optional smoky flavor, start this step is done before adding the tempering.
- Place a steel bowl in the center of the cooked lentils.
- Using a steel tong, heat a piece of charcoal on an open flame until it becomes hot and starts turning red.
- Place this hot piece of charcoal into the steel bowl and pour melted ghee on it.
- Immediately, cover the cooking pot and keep it closed for about 2-3 minutes. The smoke from the charcoal will lend a smoky flavor.
- Remove the cup after 3 minutes and discard the piece of charcoal. This is called the Dhungar method and adds a restaurant-like smoky flavor to the dal.