Yellow (chana) Dahl

this is a work in progress.
here's a guess based on the below:

To cooking beans, nearing completion, add:

Do NOT cook in chicken broth, at least at first. Salt in broth will keep beans from cooking properly.

Add seasoning... in a small fry pan, heat some oil (or ghee) add:

  1. 1/2+ tsp cumin seeds
  2. 1/2- tsp black mustard seeds (whole)
  3. 5 cloves minced garlic
  4. 4 crushed chili pequin
  5. 1/8 tsp asapheotida
in that order. Stir a few seconds (less than 10) at each addition. Items are listed in order of desired fry time.

Dump this spice mix into the beans.

Salt to taste.
optional add some chopped cilantro

serve with rice

Lentil Soup

Minor variation on the above to make a typical red (yellow) lentil soup. This type of soup is common in the middle-east, but flavored similar to above, so minor changes to this recipe make a good soup. Rinse lentils. Soak if you have time. Boil lentils about 10 min in enough water to cover, with a little oil to help prevent boil-overs.
Add ginger.
Add stock or water and bullion to desired soup consistency, continue simmering.
In about 1 Tbsp oil, heat cumin and pepper until they start to sizzle.
Add garlic until it starts to brown.
(Add asapheotida for a few seconds, stir)
Add tumeric and stir until it is well mixed with oil.
Immediately pour spice mixture into soup, and stir (or blend)

Salt to taste. Serve with squeezed lemmon, or lemmon slices.

Basic Recipe

Optional items are in green

Though you can do without them, it will make the dahl flat to omit all the optional items. You can make dahl with very little and it will still taste good. Quantities are mentioned in the instructions.

Fill a quarter of your pot with dry red lentils. This is approximately five cups of dry dahl for an 8 quart pot. Or substitute one cup of red lentils with one cup of yellow split peas. This will get you nearly a potful of cooked dahl. Wash gently with your hands, using tepid or cold water. Three or four rinses should do the trick. You should see a remarkable difference between the first rinse water and the fourth. You are washing away starch, dust, earth and pesticides. Fill the pot to three quarter full with cold water and place over high heat uncovered. The following amounts are for five cups of dry red lentils. Do not be strict with the measurements. These ingredients are for taste primarily. Use your intuition or feel for the amounts. Always put less if you are not sure.

Add to the pot a palmful of garlic and ginger root chopped fine. Add 2-3 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of asafoetida,. and 2-3 teaspoons of turmeric. The turmeric may float on top looking lumpy. Just give it a good stir and don't worry. It will dissolve. This is no bechamel sauce. Add an ounce or two of cooking oil to prevent a porridge. A teaspoon or more of ghee will give a richer taste. Bring to a boil, (takes about ten minutes), stirring occasionally. Like milk, the dahl will boil over and make a mess if you are not watching.

As soon as it boils, bring it down to medium and monitor the bottom of the pan and the thickness. Leave it uncovered, you need to see what is going on. Add boiling water if necessary to keep it liquid, a couple of ounces at a time. At this point you can choose to add frozen green peas, chopped carrots, broccoli or whole onions. When the lentils look like they are soft, bring down the heat, and let it simmer for half an hour. The consistency should be neither runny nor stiff. Like a thick French Canadian Pea Soup.

Your basic dahl is done. Turn off the heat and take a breather. Easy as pie.

Jazz & Spice & Everything Nice

Add to the basic recipe above after cooking or after defrosting it. The spiced dahl also freezes well.

Spiced you will need:

To jazz up your dahl, you can 'masala' it. 'Masala' means spice. The following can be a tricky and dangerous process. You are dealing with hot oil, so get the kids out of the way. Timing is everything. The whole process takes about three to four minutes. It's o.k. to have a drink of wine at this point and perhaps put on a Joshua Redman CD.

In a very small pot (a metal ladle bent over works best), on high heat, heat up 2-3 ounces of oil, with 2-3 tablespoons of ghee. If you want it richer, put less oil and more ghee. Study the oil mixture. When it appears to be smoking slightly, carefully throw in a tablespoon of cumin seeds. They will start to roast immediately. After about 20-30 seconds, throw in about a teaspoon of asafoetida, and after ten seconds, throw in a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed chillies. Immediately remove from heat. The whole thing should be smelling very strong and very spicy.

Hold the lid of the dahl pot in one hand, and the hot oil mixture in the other hand. Cover the oil mixture with the lid and carefully lower the two onto the dahl. The lid will prevent hot oil from splashing up on your face. Submerge the ladle into the dahl with the lid on top. Carefully, with the lid on, overturn the oil mixture into the dahl. When volcanic activity has seized, carefully remove the ladle and leave the lid on so the wonderful aromas don't escape. The dahl remains on 'off'.

Take a breather and then clean up. After about ten minutes, take off the lid and give the dahl a good stir. It should smell wonderful. Optionally chop up some fresh coriander (also known as 'cilantro') and sprinkle on top of dahl for taste and good looks. And/or squeeze a fresh lime onto the dahl. Serve with white rice and chili pickle or raw sliced onions. Or pita bread.

I recommend you wait for an hour to eat. It will taste better and still be hot if you left the lid on. And dahl always tastes better the next day. It freezes very well either 'masala-ed' or plain. Make dahl often. Make one dish per session. When you are very comfortable with a dish, then go for two dishes per session. Bon appetit!!

Here's one that referenced Madhur Jaffrey:

Chana Dahl (yellow split peas)

Preparation Time:
2 hours


  • 1 1/2 cups chana dahl (or yellow split peas)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 2 thin slices of unpeeled ginger
  • 3/4-1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tbl ghee (clarified butter, but you can substitute veg oil)
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red chilli powder (can substitute cayenne pepper)
Cooking Instructions
Put the dahl in a big pot with five cups of water. Bring to a boil and remove any surface scum. Add the turmeric and ginger. Cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours or until the dahl is tender. Stir every 5 minutes or so during the last half hour of cooking to prevent sticking. All the water should be absorbed. Remove ginger slices. Add the salt and garam masala to the dahl, stir to mix.
Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over a medium flame. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. A couple seconds later, put in the garlic. Stir and fry until the garlic pieces are lightly browned. Put the chilli powder into the pan. Immediately lift the pan off the heat and pour its entire contents into the pot with the dahl. Stir to mix. glossary
Aaron Birenboim
Last modified: Sat Sep 3 08:07:22 MDT 2011