Tamarind Lentil Curry

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Tamarind Lentil Curry

Although I didn't grow up with tamarind or even having heard of it, once I discovered south Indian food I've always kept tamarind pulp or paste around in my pantry to add its wonderful tangy, sweet and sour flavor to curries and chutneys. It's one of my favorite ingredients, and I never go very long without using it.

If you like tamarind too, this simple lentil curry features the taste of tamarind prominently. Firm cooked green lentils are coated in a thick tamarind sauce that together with warming spices is a pleasure to cook and eat at any time of year, and especially when you're looking for an uncomplicated dinner idea. It's ideally served with fresh cooked white basmati rice and a small cooling green salad on the side.

Tamarind Lentils

Note: This dish is best made with firmer lentils. I used green lentils because they hold their shape well for a nice chewy texture, but consider using other lentils or split dals, such as French lentils, toor dal or chana dal. Depending on the lentils you use, you may want to soak them for at least an hour before adding them to the pot so that the cooking time is about the same.

Tamarind Lentil CurryTamarind Lentil Curry
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on August 8, 2020

Simple, hot and tangy green lentil curry with tamarind

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 small onion or large shallot, diced
  • 1 to 2 red or green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar or jaggery
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, toss in the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and stir for 30 seconds or until the cumin seeds darken a few shades. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, and sauté for a few minutes until softened. Add the ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, asafetida if using, paprika, and cayenne. Stir for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.

  • Add the tomato, and cook for another few minutes until softened. Stir in the garam masala and lentils, and pour in the water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat the medium-low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water as necessary, until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.

  • While the lentils are cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together the tamarind, a few tablespoons of warm water, sugar, and salt. When the lentils are tender, stir this mixture into the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes, and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Green Lentil Tamarind Curry

Other lentil dishes to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Indian-Style Lentils
Tamarind Sambar
Puy Lentils with Spices and Tamarind
Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce

Audio accompaniment: Robert Fripp - Music for Quiet Moments 4 - Requiem (Norwich 16 Jun 2006)

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