Recipe: Masoor Dal with Sizzling Tarka - Gastronomic Ruminations


21 August 2011 is unofficial "Cook and Share a Pot of Curry Day" in Singapore. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to this cause, which aims to create awareness of the need for tolerance and acceptance of cultural differences in a multi-racial society.

I am sharing a Dhal recipe below which though technically, isn't a curry, serves as a good accompaniment to curry.

Masoor Dal with Tarkha

Masoor Dal with Sizzling Tarka (serves 6)
Recipe courtesy of Samia Ahad, Coriander Leaf (
Dal Ingredients

1 cup red lentils (washed & drained)

1 small onion, sliced thinly

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp garlic paste

½ tsp ginger paste

3 cups water

salt to taste

Tarka / Baghar / Sizzling Oil

3 tbsp canola oil

1 tsp cumin seed

3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

6 whole red chili peppers, dried

Method - Dal: 

1) In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the first 5 ingredients with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.

2) Lower heat, partially cover the pot and simmer till the dal is tender (takes about 25 minutes).

3) Pass the mixture through a food mill and return to a low heat.

4) Add 1 cup of water and salt. Let it simmer for a further 20 minutes.

5) Just before serving, add the Tarka / Baghar / Sizzling Oil.

Method - Tarka:

1) Heat the oil, add cumin seeds and saute till fragrant.

2) Add dried red chilis and garlic.

3) When garlic is lightly browned, pour over the dal and serve.

* Tips from Samia:

Raw Masoor Dal (Red Lentils)

* Salt is to be added only after the lentils have softened. Adding salt ahead will only toughen the lentils and double the cooking time.

Pot is to be partially covered

** Do not fully cover the pot as the dal will boil over.

Cumin Seeds, Turmeric Powder, Ginger Paste & Garlic Paste

PS: This is a very easy dish to make. I learnt this recipe during a cooking lesson at Coriander Leaf many years back. I sometimes don't even bother to puree the dal. However, do not omit the Tarka as you will find that the spices that have been tempered in hot oil add a depth of flavour to this dish.