Lentil soup, or Dal as we desi’s call it, has become quite a universal dish. It is filled with so much depth & flavor that it can be a considered a hearty meal in itself. I have had many types of Dal from around the world, and to me, every kind seems more different than the others. Personally, I favor the one from my home country because it is very simple and focuses on only a few staples like chili, garlic or onions to give it its depth. One of my all time favorite meals includes rice, dal and a steaming fresh turmeric omelet, and that to me is the best comfort food of all time.
For this recipe, I used red split lentils, which is the most common and basic type of lentils out there. They don’t take long to cook and are easy to play around with. However, this recipe can be altered to any type of lentil of your choice, but just keep in mind that different lentils have different cooking times, so adjust to your liking.
A good dal is always finished off with some fried garlic, onions and green chili–in Bangla, we call this addition “bagar”– and that’s how we Bengali’s like it! I can’t reiterate how simple this dish is, especially considering its richness. I do want to also mention that I inherited part of this recipe from Fahmid’s mom, who gave me a way to take my simple Dal to another level. In addition to the basic ingredients she adds tomatoes, and instead of regular oil, she adds mustard oil, which makes this dal to die for.
I believe that every desi dinner party always requires some Dal, so definitely give this one a try! As I mentioned earlier, I used a garlic, chili and mustard oil to give this dal its maximum depth of flavor, however, play around with the quantities and make sure to Make It Your Way!
1 cup of red split lentils
2 cups of water
1/2 cup chopped shallots (or red onions)
1 Serano chili chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped coriander (set some aside for garnish)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder (adjust to your liking)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2-3 tbsp mustard oil
1 tomato chopped to inch sized chunks
In a pot, add dal, water, spices, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup of shallots and set in on the stove over medium-low heat. Give the dal stir every 4-5 minutes for 10-12 minutes. Once completed, taste to see if your Dal is nearly cooked. Keep in mind that based on the type of Dal you are using, the cooking time will differ. Here I used red split lentils, which don’t take longer than 15-20 minutes in total. After 10-12 minutes taste your Dal to check if it is halfway done. The Dal should have a little bit of a bite to it, however if it is still quite tough, let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
Now add in the tomatoes and lower the heat to low simmer. While the Dal simmers, in a separate pan, heat mustard oil on low heat.
Once heated, add the garlic, shallots and coriander and fry till onions turn slightly golden brown.
If you notice your garlic starting to brown too quickly, lower the heat and keep frying on low heat for about 5 minutes. You want to add in your bagar right at the end, so make sure the lentils are cooked through before you mix it in.
Once your onions, garlic, and chili have slightly browned, simply pour it into your dal and give it a good mix. Taste to make sure you have a good balance of salt and serve hot with rice or roti.