Tarka Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Tarka Dal

If you've ever been to an Indian restaurant in North America, you've probably seen "tarka dal" on the menu. Almost always a bowl of yellow lentils cooked and mashed to a thick soup-like consistency, the name "tarka dal" is actually a generic term for any cooked dal tempered with a a final addition of seeds and spices fried in hot oil — the "tarka" — to give it a simple but elegant finish.

This version of tarka dal uses toor dal, otherwise known as toovar dal or split pigeon peas, which I find are a slightly sweeter and more full-textured dal than most. These and other ingredients in this recipe are easily available at any Indian or Asian grocer, but you can substitute yellow split peas for the toor dal. With very little preparation or cooking time, this tarka dal is an excellent addition to a full-course Indian meal, or makes a quick and simple but lovely Indian supper by itself with rice and a green salad. If you'd like to serve it in bowls almost as a soup, as I find most Indian restaurants do, add another 3/4 cup of water to the dal while cooking to thin the consistency.

Tarka DalTarka Dal
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on December 16, 2007

Simple, spicy and flavorful dry-textured pigeon pea curry — a south Indian classic

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Print this recipePrint this recipe

  • 1 cup toor dal or yellow split peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ghee or olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 3 fresh red or green chilies, slit down one side
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Tarka (tempering):
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon split and skinless urad dal
  • 4 dried whole red chilies, crumbled
  • 1 small onion, cut lengthwise into thin wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
  • 6 curry leaves
  • pinch of asafetida
  • Rinse the toor dal or split peas thoroughly and combine with all the other dal ingredients except for the salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 1 hour or until the dal is very soft and the water is mostly reduced. Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and purée to a thick soupy paste with a hand-blender or potato masher. Set aside.

  • Heat the ghee or oil for the tarka in a small frying pan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the brown mustard seeds. As soon as the seeds start to sputter, usually a few seconds depending on the intensity of the heat, add the urad dal, chilies, onion, garlic and curry leaves. Stir fry for a few minutes until the urad dal turns reddish-brown. Toss in the asafetida, stir once, then pour the tarka into the dal and mix.

  • Serve hot or warm over a bed of white rice, or in bowls if adding extra water.

Makes 4 servings

1 comment:

Padmaja said...

That Tarka dal looks absolutely delicious!!!