Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies...
I know what you’re thinking, hot soup or dal in the middle of summer? You’re crazy! And normally I would agree with you only I just recently came off five days of being ridiculously ill with what was probably Norovirus and so I didn’t want to push the limits of my digestion. Since Thursday afternoon I’d been living off of crackers, bread, tea, and on Saturday evening when I finally began to feel stable enough to take in something heartier I made a very brothy vegetable soup. It was pretty basic - potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, broth, water, and spike seasoning. It was tasty, but come Monday when I was feeling roughly 85%-90% better I wanted to eat something fun!
I’ve really been craving Indian food lately, specifically lentils, and when I think of lentils I automatically think of dal, there are few things more nourishing and comforting then a big ‘ole bowl of dal. Specifically I wanted dal tadka, which I’ve only recently discovered There’s a great little Vegetarian Indian Restaurant not far from where I live that serves a wicked good Dal Tadka, I had it the week my mother was in town visiting me, and I’ve been kind of dreaming about tadka ever since.
Tadka incase you don’t know is really just a cooking technique in which you fry whole spices in oil so that they release their natural oils, and after a minute or so you pour the whole thing - oil and all - into the dish you’ve prepared. It sound a bit strange maybe since we’re used to putting spices in our food at the beginning of cooking rather then at the end but let me assure you that this technique imparts some truly phenomenal flavor! And that’s exactly what I wanted.
Now, I’m not going to lay any claims saying that this is in any way a traditional dal tadka, or even a traditional dal, but it is delicious. It’s full of ingredients that are delicious and healing, however if you’re unaccustomed to cooking Indian food at home you may not have them all on hand. Still, they should be easy enough to find at your local Indian grocery - that’s where I get mine - and they are well worth hunting down. Trust me once you taste the slightly bitter, onion flavor of Nigella seeds you’ll be hooked! Similarly the buttery, garlic/onion flavor of asafetida can not be matched, and black mustard has a unique flavor itself, different from that of yellow mustard. As for pickled red chilies I make them myself, and so I’m not sure if you can actually buy such a thing anywhere. Though if you have a basic pickling recipe you can easily pickle some of your own chilies. It’s not necessary but I love the added flavor note.
Moong and Toor Dal Tadka with Coconut and Red Chilies
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion Diced
1 C Moong Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
½ C Toor Dal - soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
4 C Water
½ tsp Ground Turmeric
1 - 1 ½ tsp Salt - to taste
1 13.5oz can Full Fat Coconut Milk
½ Bunch Cilantro Minced
2-3 tsp Olive Oil
1 ½ tsp Black Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Nigella Seeds
½ tsp Coriander Seeds
½ tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Asafetida Powder
6 Garlic Cloves Minced
1-2 Red Chilies Minced - depending on heat preference.
To Garnish -
Extra Minced Cilantro
Sliced Pickled Red Chillies - optional but highly recommended!
For the Dal
- Heat the Olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and saute for 5-6 minutes until lightly golden.
- To the pot add the soaked and rinsed Moong Dal as well as the Toor Dal. Stir to combine.
- Add the 4 cups of water, the turmeric, and the salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes then reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- Check on the doneness of your dal. If the lentils are still hard, or too firm for your liking continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes until they become soft. If the lentils are soft already, and have reached a somewhat mushy consistency add in the coconut milk and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and add in the minced cilantro. Stir to combine.
For the Tadka
- Heat the oil on high in a heavy bottomed frying pan. Once hot add in the mustard seeds, nigella seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida powder, minced garlic and minced chili. Fry for one minute or until the seeds pop, the garlic has turned golden and the chilies have softened slightly. It’s okay if the spices brown a little, it adds to the flavor.
- Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the entire contents - spices and residual oil - into your pot containing the dal.
- Stir the Tadka into the dal until it’s been well combined. Let sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Then divide amongst serving bowls and garnish with additional cilantro and pickled red chilies if desired.
- Serve with basmati rice, and/or Indian Flatbread. I made a batch of Roti to scoop the dal up and it was a delicious accompaniment.