How to Make Chana Dal

Hilary Cable

Chana dal (also spelled “daal” or “dahl”) is an Indian comfort food. It is vegetarian legume dish that can be made thick or thin, depending on its role in the meal. It is served all over India, and every region has its own combination of seasonings, additions and level of spicy heat. This version leans toward the Northern Indian style and lacks the fiery heat and tartness of Southern versions. Just before serving, it is topped with a tadka ("tempering," in Hindi) of infused olive oil, garlic and whole spices.

Rinse the chana in plenty of water to remove excess starch, soil and small stones that may have found their way into the package.

Place the rinsed chana, water, salt, turmeric and bay leaves in the 4-qt. pan. Bring to a boil on high heat. The chana will foam. Stir the foam back into the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1½ hours at a gentle simmer. Check frequently for water. Chana soaks it up rapidly and you may need to add more.

Take a bite of the chana. It should be softened but holding its shape. Dice the tomato and zucchini and add to the chana. Also add the seasonings: coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper. Cook for 30 minutes.

Mash the chana with the back of your spoon. How much you mash depends on your preference. Some people prefer chana mostly smooth, others with more texture.

Prepare the tadka. In the microwave-proof custard dish, put the cumin, black cumin, mustard seeds and the crushed or slivered garlic. Break the chili pods into 10 or 12 small pieces and add them to the dish. Pour the 2 tbsp. of olive oil over the seasonings. Place the dish in a microwave and cook on high for 15 seconds. Stir. Cook 15 more seconds. The oil will sizzle and the garlic will become fragrant.

Stir the tadka into the chana and serve immediately with a garnish of chopped fresh coriander. Serves 4 to 6 people.