Dhal is pretty much a staple in our house and there are rarely any days we don't whip up a quick pot. It's so comforting and quick to come together and good with any type of carb or a bowlful on its own.
Masoor is our favorite type of dhal, but you may substitute any type of lentil including mung bean and chick pea. Just remember to adjust cooking time and water, as hardier types take longer to cook.
The spices that go into this dish are what makes it so flavorful and aromatic. Although the pandan and curry leaves are optional, we highly recommend it. Try an Asian grocery store for these. If you're replacing the Ceylon cinnamon with the cassia variety (Saigon cinnamon), halve the quantity as it may overpower the creamy flavor of the final dish. Omit the Ceylon curry powder for a simpler and equally delicious version. But the curry blend gives this dish such a depth of flavor that we almost never skip it.
- 1 cup masoor dhal
- 2 ½ cups water
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ¼ of large red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp green chili, chopped (about 2 peppers)
- 3 inches pandan leaf, fresh or dry (optional)
- 1 handful curry leaves, fresh or dry (optional)
- 2 whole cardamom pods, split open
- 1 whole clove, crushed
- 1 tsp ground cayenne
- 1 tsp Ceylon curry powder (optional)
- ½ stick Ceylon cinnamon, broken by hand
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ - 1 cup full fat coconut milk (use the higher quantity if you want a soupy consistency)
- 1 tsp iodized sea salt (or to taste)
- In a strainer or colander with small holes, rinse dhal under cool running water until water runs clear, stirring constantly.
- Add rinsed dhal to cooking pot, cover with water and let soak for at least 10 minutes.
- Add garlic, onion, green chili, curry and pandan leaves, cardamom, clove, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin and if using, curry powder. Stir to mix well. You can use the back of your knife or a mortar and pestle to crush the cardamom and clove.
- Cook on medium heat until dhal is tender, about 12 minutes. You can test a grain at this point by crushing it between two fingers. It should still feel nutty but soft.
- Add the coconut milk and salt, increase heat to high and stir slowly and constantly until sauce boils over, about 2 minutes.
- Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Some of the sauce will be absorbed into the dhal.
- When ready to eat, give it a stir before serving. You may remove the cinnamon stick and pandan leaf.