This recipe comes straight to you from the heart of India, where this executive chef spent a little time learning the local cuisine. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at Indian cooking, but were afraid to do so, this dish is a great way to hone your skills and get familiar with the typical ingredients and spices that make Indian food so delicious (and healthy!).
Yellow dal, or toor dal is a kind of lentil that is typical in Indian cuisine and can be found in any Indian grocery story. It is not the same as yellow split-peas, although you can substitute one for the other if you can't get access to toor dal (yellow split-peas will cook faster).
When making dal, one of the common steps in the process is to make what is known in Hindi as "chaunk" by which you separately fry the spices and some of the aromatic ingredients in ghee before adding it to the dal. It is the magic that goes into the dal dish, giving it an unmistakable flavor and smell that warms the soul.
Two other ingredients that probably require some explanation for Indian cooking newbies:
Ghee is clarified butter or butter that has been heated to remove the liquid residues. Because of how it is prepared, it tends to have a nuttier and more aromatic flavor to it. It is a staple in India and can be found in any Indian grocery store and many standard grocery stores today in the international aisle.
Asafetida is a powdered aromatic made from gum resin of an herb that is native to parts of the Middle East and India. It has a strong, bitter taste, but enhances the flavors of Indian dishes when added. It is also considered a digestive aid in India.
We think that the best way to enjoy yellow dal is with a side of rice flavored with coconut oil. Interestingly, the Washington Post recently ran a story about how coconut oil, when added to rice, actually reduces the calories of the rice. Isn't that lovely!
Servings: 4 servings
Prep time: 20 minutes