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Masoor Dahl Tadka

So how’s about that weather we’ve been having? Eh? Hmm?

The sunlight streaming in through my window in the evening tells me it should be spring. The -23°C windchill bullshit we’ve been having the last few days says otherwise. As much as I want to get the grill going and grab some steaks from Tenderloin on the way home, it’s still stew weather. So, after getting my lips chapped by a merciless north wind several days past the vernal equinox, I decided it was time for dahl.

Masoor Dal Tadka

This recipe is slightly adapted from Tigers & Strawberries, a (sadly) defunct blog full of really interesting recipes.  In this post, she explains that tadka is a method of seasoning a dish by frying aromatic spices in oil and pouring it on or into the dish just before serving. The flavour and richness that this cooking method gives to the food is just amazing, and I’ve pondered using the technique for something other than lentils.

One other note: the recipe calls for asafoetida, also known as hing. This is totally optional, and I realize that it is not a staple in most spice cupboards. However, if you’re near an Indian or Pakistani grocer, see if you can get a small container. I think it’s worth the small expense.

I am submitting this recipe into our company “healthy recipe” contest as an antidote to all the baking recipes containing applesauce, and the millions of ways to prepare chickpeas. (Ok, it’s not quite that bad.) I’ll just have to see if it’ll meet their criteria. Hopefully none of the judges look up what ghee is (SHHH IT’S CLARIFIED BUTTER DON’T TELL ANYONE.)

And a quick note about the photo: normally I cook the lentils down until they are totally mush. I really wanted to get a great picture for this recipe, though, and yellow mush really isn’t that photogenic. (It’s not. I tried!) However, cooking them until they are no longer crunchy, but just before they’re totally mush, worked just fine. Go ahead and give them the extra 10 minutes or so.

Masoor Dahl Tadka
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A hearty red lentil stew, generously seasoned and served over rice.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TB ghee
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1" cube of fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB yellow mustard seeds
  • ½ TB whole cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp crushed red chilies (or to taste)
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro or parsley
  1. Rinse the lentils and add to a saucepan with the diced tomatoes and water. Add the adafoetida and salt, and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered. Let simmer until lentils are cooked to your liking. (I usually cook them down until the lentils have melted into a puree, but they are also good *very* slightly al dente.)
  2. In a frying pan, melt the ghee over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until they are dark yellow. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin and red chilies. Stir briskly until the seeds start to snap and pop.
  3. Pour the onion mixture into the lentils and stir. Serve immediately over rice or with naan.


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