The simplest dal

Dal. It’s probably the food memory any Indian person has growing up. So it was with me. The inevitable pressure cooker whistles, the smell of dal being ready and roasting ghee and spices: it is so well ingrained in my memory, that anytime I even recall it I think of lunch.

For most vegetarian households in India, it is the prime provider of protein. Dal – the generic Hindi word for lentils – are healthy, have lots of fiber, protein and in India at least often taken for granted. So much so, that dal is the taken for granted, staple food on almost every meal’s plate. If you would take it to a pot luck, you’d be frowned upon (Well, we make this everyday!). Nonetheless it is one of my favorite dishes and quickly becoming one of Sarandipitea’s as well.

I could go on and on, but here’s the wiki link and it’s pretty good.

On with the recipe: this recipe will work with most dals. It’s just the cooking time you have to vary a bit depending on how much time that dal takes to cook. You can vary things up any which way like: add whatever spices you want, or even add vegetables. This recipe, is absolutely the simplest version. I am writing this one keeping the most commonly used dals in North India: arhar (or toor), masoor (matka or sabut)

The idea is simple: cook the dal separately in a pressure cooker. Cook the chaunk and mix.

Ingredients: (For about 4-6 servings)

For the dal:

  • 2 cups of dal (arhar/matka masoor/sabut masoor)
  • 2/3 teaspoons of tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

For the chaunk:

  • A generous teaspoon of ghee
  • 3/4 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoons of red chilli powder
  • A generous pinch of asafoetida (hing)



  1. Wash the dal thoroughly
  2. Add and mix the dal ingredients (dal, salt, tumeric)  to the pressure cooker. Close properly, cook on high heat till you can smell the dal. On mine, this takes about 2-3 whistles. Take off the heat and let it pressure cook the dal.


  1. Heat the ghee on high in a frying pan and as the ghee heats, add some cumin seeds.
  2. When the cumin seeds start browning and crackling, add the asafoetida powder and red chilli powder, mix them in for an instant and remove from heat.

Once the pressure has subsided – open the pressure cooker and mix in the chaunk to the dal.That’s it!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Erica says:

    I’m moving into an apartment with a kitchen and I’m definitely looking forward to using the recipes from your blog – this one included. I’m buying a pressure cooker especially for these recipes (and my roommate’s bean recipes!). Thanks for posting!

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