Super spicy and vegan moong dal tadka or Indian lentil dal or curry.
Dal, Dahl, Dhal or Daal
There is no consent about the right way of spelling dal… Dahl? Or dhal? Or daal? So, as I have no idea what’s best, I chose the simplest form: dal.
The best explanation for these different ways of spelling dal I found is that “Hindi is a phonetic language, meaning it’s spoken the way it’s written and when you translate it to English, that could be left to a tiny bit of interpretation.” (Indian as Apple Pie)
Dal is the Indian term for dried, split pulses, like lentils, peas or beans. But not only. Dal is also the term used when speaking about a dish made with lentils, a super spicy and comforting Indian curry.
Types of dal
There are countless ways of cooking a good dal tadka recipe, this recipe using moong lentils Organic Moong Dal is just one of them.
You can make dal using regular chickpeas, split chickpeas (chana dal), brown chickpeas (kala chana), black eyed peas, whole mung beans, yellow moong lentils (moong dal), split pigeon pea (toor dal), black lentils (urad dal), red lentils (masoor dal) and kidney beans (rajma).
Most of the times when cooking a lentil curry recipe, I make masoor dal using red lentils. I can only make moong dal tadka when I happen to find an Asian store and buy a bag of moong lentils.
I absolutely love the moong dal and this recipe is the only one I’ve ever cooked with the moong lentils. And I must have gone through 3 or 4 bags already.
Actually, when researching for this blog post, I read that people think moong dal to be a bit bland. I really can’t get it, as I have never had this feeling about this lentil curry recipe. I find it just as spicy, tasteful and satisfying as a more regular red lentil dal…
What is dal tadka?
Tadka is the Hindi word meaning tempering. Tempering is used not only in Indian cuisine, but also in the cuisines of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Herbs and whole spices are fried in oil, thus releasing their essential oils and changing or enhancing their taste. Both these roasted spices and the oil are then poured into the dish. Or the whole tempering process takes place at the beginning, roasting the spices in oil before adding the remaining ingredients.
For this Indian lentil curry recipe, I do the tempering at the end of the cooking process. I cook the yellow split lentils first, mash them lightly and add the spices and the oil.
How to serve moong dal tadka
Most of the times I serve this Indian lentil dal over rice with some plain yogurt or raita on the side. If I don’t feel like having rice, I might bake these easy and fluffy naan breads.
But I often serve the moong dal tadka or a more regular and very spicy red lentil dal as part of a larger Indian curry meal.
I cook Indian food for guests very often. There are many reasons for that. First of all, Indian food is amazing! Then, curries or dals are so good to prepare in advance and just reheat when the guests are there. That reduces the stress significantly.
And most importantly, most of the people I know are not familiar with Indian food and I just like to surprise them, to be the one to introduce them to such amazing flavors.
I have never failed until now, everybody I have ever served Indian food to was impressed and some of them even ask, when invited to dinner, if I could cook something Indian again.
A good, spicy lentil curry recipe is always part of the menu. Usually, I would cook a chicken curry, a vegetable curry, moong dal tadka or red lentil dal, raita, some Indian style chopped salad, rice or naan bread. Followed by dessert, which is most of the times shrikhand.
And just in case I put you in the mood for some delicious Indian food, have a look at some of these curries, I am sure you will find something you like:
- 200 g/ 7 oz/ 1 cup moong dal (split yellow moong lentils)
- 850 ml/ 28.7 fl.oz/ 3 ½ cups water
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 ½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 onion, about 150 g/ 5.3 oz/ about ¾ cup chopped
- 3 lime leaves (See note)
- ½ - 1 teaspoon chili flakes, to taste
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 2 tomatoes, about 150 g/ 5.3 oz
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, more to taste
- sea salt
Give the moong lentils to a saucepan. Add the water and the turmeric. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or according to the packet's instructions. The lentils should be soft. Mash lightly.
Finely chop the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Keep them separated.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the cumin and the brown mustard seeds. Stir for about 30 seconds.
Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes. Add the lime leaves, chili flakes, chopped garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the sugar and stir for 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are slightly softened.
Give this mixture to the cooked lentils and mix well. Add sea salt to taste. Add the lemon juice, stir again and only add more if you feel it is necessary, to taste.
Serve the moong dal tadka with rice/ naan bread and yogurt/raita or as suggested above.
Note: You can use curry leaves instead.