Dal-e-Tuar – the Everyday Dal

Toor Dal with rice is the staple food in Central part of India.  Pigeon pea or Arhar Dal, as it called in northern India, is an excellent source of calcium, rich in fibre, has adequate iron and makes an easy-to-digest meal. The preparation varies slightly from state to state.

Dal is boiled with turmeric to get a bright yellow colour, then cooked with onion and tomatoes, tempered with mustard seeds, curry leaves and garnished with fresh coriander – the result is so aromatic and flavourful and yet so comforting.

My parents come from Punjab but I was born and brought up in Bhopal. In the early years, we lived in the BHEL township which was an eclectic community with people from all over India.

As a little boy, my brother would often go to neighbours’ house to play and have lunch with them. On the lunch menu, invariably, was Tuar Dal and rice. As he grew up, my brother became very fond of this dal and my Mum would cook it for him everyday. When my father would ask what’s for dinner, Mum would jokingly say ‘Dal-e-Tuar’ to make it sound special!

Tuar Dal is also the first recipe my Mum taught me. That was a very simple recipe where the boiled dal was tempered with cumin seeds and coriander and did not use any onions or tomatoes. This recipe is another variation which both Mum and I have adopted over the years.

Serves 3-4 people
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 30 min

What you will need

  • 1 cup Toor Dal (pigeon pea)
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • Dry Spices: Mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hing (asafoetida), turmeric powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder.
  • 1 sprig curry leaves, optional
  • 1 green chilli, optional
  • Coriander leaves, optional
  • Salt as required

How to Make it

Boiling the dal

  1. Wash dal thoroughly and add to a pressure cooker with 5-6 cups of water.
  2. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder to it.
  3. Put it to boil on high heat.
  4. When you hear the first whistle, lower the heat(level 3 in electric stove, sim on gas stove) and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  5. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and mix it well. I prefer to have it cooked until the dal is mashed but if you prefer, you can cook it for less time.

Prepare the tempering(Tadka/Chaunk)

  1. Heat two tbsp oil in a pan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds. Wait for the seeds to crackle.
  3. Lower the heat, and add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds.
  4. When the cumin seeds brown, add a pinch of hing followed by 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste.
  5. Saute the paste till the raw aroma is gone. Remember to cook everything at a low-medium flame to avoid burning.
  6. Adding curry leaves and green chilli is optional but it does give a nice flavour to the dal. Skip if you do not have them.
  7. When the leaves start to change colour, add onions and saute them until transparent. Also add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 1/4 tsp salt at this point to help onions cook faster.
  8. When the onions are slightly brown, add the chopped tomato.
  9. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the dry spice powders: 1/4 tsp red chilli powder(consider to add less if you have added green chilli), 1 heaped tsp coriander powder.
  10. Sambhar powder is optional. I use the store-bought powder. Add 1/4 tsp if you have it.
  11. Continue to cook on low heat until the tomatoes get mushy and release oil.
  12. Next add the dal.
  13. Increase the heat, bring the dal to a boil. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat again and simmer for 5 minutes. Check the consistency. It should not be watery but also not creamy.
  14. Finally add some coriander leaves and take it off the heat.

Dal is ready. Serve it hot with rice. You can boil rice while the dal is cooking to save time.

Add papad and salad to make a complete meal.  You can also serve it with chapatis. Add a dry vegetable as a side dish.

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