Asian dishes are still very new to me and common dishes to you are probably super special for me. I can count the different Asian dishes I have had on one hand. I was having a good scroll through the old interwebs to come up with a different dish to just a curry. Lentils, or dal caught my eye. Before searching further, I asked one of my close colleagues, who happens to be Asian, what lentils were like. My only experience with lentils was from The Young Ones with Neil’s failed attempts at cooking them. I genuinely expected to look at my husband in the process of cooking and say, “but I just looked at them and they blew up!” My colleague told me they were creamy and absorbed whatever flavours you added to them at the end. I went away and did some research and decided on tarka dal.
If you’re looking for an authentic tarka dal, you better jog on. I don’t do authentic and frankly, I’d rather leave that to the more skilled cooks of where this dish originates. Last thing I want to do is offend people calling this authentic and its anything but! Instead, this is my take on the dish which came out pretty dang good! I sent a photo of it to my colleague who gave it his seal of approval, so I can’t be too far off. My recipe for tarka dal is under 400 calories and has a hefty 10g of protein per serving. Low carb conscious people be advised, this is in the higher end of the spectrum. Do not fear, as with anything I cook, it is full of good complex carbs. This will yield you a family sized pot of dal which can either be enjoyed that night or pop it in the freezer and enjoy later on! If you do plan to freeze a portion or two, just remember to stir the tarka into the dal before you freeze it.
Tarka Dal – Serves 4
250g yellow or red lentils/dal
1 onion, sliced
2 small tomatoes, diced small
1 green chili, seeds removed and diced small
150g basmati rice
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground garlic
2 tsp garam masala
Fresh coriander (optional)
Soak the dal for 1-3 hours prior to cooking. Once soaked, rinse the dal until the water runs clear and transfer into a large pan. Cover with cold water until the dal is just covered.
Crank the heat up on the lentils and bring the water to a boil. Skim off any ‘scum’ that is sitting on the surface. Stir in turmeric and bring down to a simmer. Cover and let the dal cook away.
While the dal cooks, spray a medium sized frying pan with frylight on medium heat to begin the tarka. Add to the pan the sliced onion, diced tomato, and diced chili. Cook for a few minutes until the onion just begins to soften. Add in the spices and cook for another few minutes. Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
Give the dal a good stir – you’re looking for a consistency like porridge. If the dal is too thick, add a little water. If the dal is still watery, remove the lid and let it cook for a few more minutes. Dish up the dal and top with tarka and fresh coriander. Serve with basmati rice and a chapati. For a low carb version (93 calories/13g carbs) you can skip the rice and chapatis.