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Red Lentil Dal

March 8, 2010

You may recall from my Tom Yam Soup with Shrimp post that this past summer I took a couple months off to backpack around India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore.  As you can imagine, it was an amazing experience that I miss dearly.  Thankfully I have a million photographs (okay, 3,000) and an extensive journal to help me remember it all.  Even better, I have the love of food to bring it all back.

Women at a Sikh temple make roti (Delhi, India)

Last weekend my friend, Alison, and I spent an afternoon walking around Jackson Heights in Queens here in New York.  This is an area rich in Indian shops and restaurants.  You will hear more about that in a later post, but I bring it up because it was the closest to feeling like I was back in India since my trip.  Eating all the great food, seeing all the Hindi newspapers for sale, and smelling all the spices at the market brought it all back.

A small village in Rajasthan, India

That evening I came home and even after spending an entire afternoon eating Indian food, I needed more and made a curry for dinner.  That wasn’t enough.  Again last night I had to make more.  I needed to smell the curry, feel the warmth, and go back to India for an evening.

Views from the road out in the countryside of Rajasthan, India

A ways back Brian from The Blue Hour had mentioned a dal that he had made and highly recommended.  Dal, for those of you who do not know, is a lentil dish that’s creamy and warm mixed with subtle seasonings.  It is a lovely dish to curl up on the couch with to enjoy on a chilly evening.

Rajasthan, India

The recipe is actually a creation of Nigella Lawson’s, a British cook, so it may not be the most authentic (especially with the sweet potato).  However, I loved it and it did take me back to India.  I ate it with some roti that I picked up in Jackson Heights last week and sat back and remembered all the parts of my trip that I loved.  I was quite content.

So if you would like to make a trip to India one evening at home, here is the recipe as provided by the New York Times.  It serves 4-6 people.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces, about 1 medium) finely diced sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Thai or bird’s-eye red chili
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil, and sauté onion until softened.
  2. Add sweet potato, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add minced ginger and garlic; stir, and reduce heat to low.
  4. Finely dice chili, keeping seeds if you wish to add more heat. Add chili, lentils, coriander, cumin, turmeric and ground ginger to pan. Stir until lentils are well coated with oil.
  5. Add tomatoes and 4 cups water. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat until mixture is at a fast simmer. Cook uncovered until lentils and potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.
  6. Season to taste with salt, and continue to simmer until mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Whisk dal to amalgamate lentils and sweet potatoes. If dal is too soupy, increase heat and cook for a little longer.
  8. To serve, place dal in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve hot.


21 Comments leave one →
  1. apocalypsecakes permalink
    March 8, 2010 10:57 am

    Your dal looks delicious. I like how you’ve got food images up with your travel photos. I did a little developing nation travel myself and came up with something a bit different:

  2. March 8, 2010 11:11 am

    nice pics… I also saw that you have some restaurants from Richmond, VA! I’m up there sometimes, I have to check some of those out! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jim Jonas permalink
    March 8, 2010 1:24 pm

    I enjoy cooking Lentil Bean Soup. it is very good for you. Named the poor mans soup I found a simple way for me to cook it.
    1). 2lbs bean
    2). 16 oz. chicken broth “salt free if you wish” you will either need more chicken broth or water.
    3). 1 onion chopped
    4) 1 bay leaf
    5) 3 cloves of Garlic
    6) little tea spoon of cinnamon mix all parts.
    Onion powder, garlic powder, bay leaves, Basile leaves, chicken soup covering the pan and stirr.
    heat up and pour lentils after washing and draining the lentils over night. Mix all ingredients in the middle.
    When soup comes to a boil turn to low heat look to make sure they are cooking . Generally depending on how hot your stove is they taste better if they are cook longer that 45 minutes to 1 hour. I have cooked them for three hours.

  4. March 8, 2010 1:41 pm

    Looks good, I will add a link to my site, where I post Indian recipes (I am from Rajasthan, India):

    I’m also subscribing.

  5. March 8, 2010 4:41 pm

    This is a beautiful site. I am re-creating a nutrition and cooking site into wordpress. I love your recipes and photos. We could be an excellent resource for one another.

    My site, Healthy Cooking for Prevention, focuses on the natural homeopathic remedies that natural foods poses.

    I am a mother of three, a nurse and a rancher in rural Northern Wyoming. Like I mentioned earlier, I am in the process of re-creating my site. I look forward to seeing more on this outstanding blog.

  6. March 8, 2010 7:01 pm

    I like your site. Nice pics. I haven’t eaten Indian food before, so I’ll try it, it looks good.

  7. saleblan permalink
    March 8, 2010 7:58 pm

    This looks so good! Lentils and sweet potatoes sounds like the perfect combination, and I love how simple but satisfying it looks. 😀

  8. March 8, 2010 8:45 pm

    delicious food, indian, vietnam, i would like to have a taste at them if possible, by the way, may i have the honor to make friends with you, my msn is:, thanks!

  9. Jangchub permalink
    March 8, 2010 9:58 pm

    This looks lovely! I’ll try it soon.

  10. Elizabeth permalink
    March 8, 2010 10:37 pm

    Yum. I had a great recipe for Dahl that I lost. It was pretty much like the one you have listed but with carrots and celery instead of sweet potato. I am going to give your recipe a try tonight with that small modification. I love Dahl with yoghurt and cucumber raita.
    Thanks heaps.

  11. March 9, 2010 3:37 am

    I’m definitely going to try this recipe out. I usually cook a lot of Japanese food, so it will be nice to diverge from that course.
    Your comment about needing “go back to India for an evening” is spot on. I love how food can transport you to a time and place whether it’s another country or your childhood. I’ll check back to see what else you’re cooking…

  12. March 9, 2010 10:28 am

    I like the picture of the Indian boy wearing a “Gucci” T-shirt – I reckon he’s got style and doesn’t even know it! 🙂

  13. March 9, 2010 10:31 am

    I traveled from Delhi to Goa and back up again in 1995, although I’d eaten a lot of Indian food in England I’d never had real Dal before. My favorite was definitley in Rajastan. I’ll give this a go and hopefully the memories will come flooding back…

  14. March 9, 2010 11:21 am

    This looks so fantastic, I just e-mailed my husband the link with the Subject: Dinner??

    Thanks for the recipe and gorgeous pics – can’t wait to give it a try!

  15. gemma permalink
    March 13, 2010 7:55 am

    um this looks delicious. I think I need to make this ASAP

  16. March 22, 2010 1:53 pm

    K – this looks DELICIOUS! xo

  17. July 5, 2011 12:56 am

    This recipe was delicious, I’ll look for more of your submissions.

    Red Potato Recipes

  18. Clare-Helen permalink
    May 10, 2017 9:56 pm

    Thank you for posting this recipe! I just made it and I am on my third bowl! I did have to substute some of the ingredients with what I had on hand (green onions for onions, carrots for sweet potatoes, and crushed red pepper for chili) but it still turned out great.
    Can’t wait to try more of your recipes!


  1. Longer nights | To make a day
  2. Red Lentil Dal & Chai Smoothies! |

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