Chana dal is one of those easy recipes that should be a staple in my diet, but until now, I’ve just never gotten around to working out a good recipe. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, I’ve always just been a little too scared of cooking dal from scratch to try it. I mean, the extent of my ‘dal’ experience before this was green and red split lentils, and those just aren’t the same. You basically look at a red lentil funny and it turns to mush. They’re also nearly impossible to under cook.
Chana dal is different, it holds it’s shape better and takes a longer cooking time. I guess for some reason in my mind that equated to ‘hard to cook’. But I can now 100% positively affirm there is nothing challenging about cooking chana dal, if you can add water to a pot and turn on a stove-top, you can successfully make this dal!
I used my immersion blender to puree the masala. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender, just be very careful transferring the mixture!
Amchur powder is a fantastic Indian spice made from dried mangoes, it imparts a subtly sweet and savory flavor to the dal, you can find it at almost any Indian grocer, on Amazon, and even at some larger stores. Fenugreek seeds are also relatively easy to come by, I got mine off Amazon, but I’ve seen them at Indian grocers as well. If you can’t find them, just skip them. Same with the asafoetida powder – it’s a very unique flavor that can’t easily be replicated, so if you can’t get it online or in a store, just leave it out.
Rinsing the dal plays a critical role in not only the final texture of the dish, but also to remove any impurities that may have found their way onto the seeds. I poured it into a strainer, and then set the strainer over a pot so I could see when the water was running clear.
The turmeric in with the cooking water for the dal is totally optional, I like it because it gives the finished dish a bright pop of color, but you can skip it easily without sacrificing any flavor!
As far as chana dal itself goes, any Indian grocer will have it in bulk, otherwise you can find it online, and even many large grocery stores carry it now. It’s also called split chickpeas, but to be honest, I don’t think it’s the same as a garbanzo bean, the halves are just too small to be from the same plant.
- 1 cup Chana Daal (Split Chickpeas or Bengal Gram)
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric, ground
- 3 medium Tomatoes
- 1 medium White Onion, minced
- 2 Thai Green Chillies, minced
- 5 cloves Garlic, minced
- Olive Oil or Vegetable Oil
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1-2 Red Chili, dried (Thai or Serrano)
- 1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
- 1/4" Turmeric, skinned and roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp Garam Masala
- 1/2 tsp Amchur Powder (Mango)
- 1/4 tsp Asafoetida Powder (Hing)
- 1/4 cup Cilantro, roughly chopped
Pour the dal in a strainer and rinse well until the water runs clear. Transfer to a bowl and soak the dal in a quart of room temp water for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Rinse the dal again and add to a medium pot with 3 cups of water and the ground turmeric. Cover and bring to a low simmer. Simmer about 45 minutes or until dal is tender. Set aside.
While the dal is simmering, heat a heavy 4 - 5 quart dutch oven, to medium-high, add the cumin, coriander, chilies, fenugreek and turmeric. Toss over the heat until they are very fragrant, but not burnt about 45 seconds. Immediately remove from heat and allow to cool for a bit.
Add all the spices to a spice grinder and pulse several times until they are ground to a fine powder. Set aside.
Bring two quarts of water to a boil in the same pot. Drop in the tomatoes, one at a time and allow to cook for 30 -45 seconds. Remove to a clean plate and cool. Using a paring knife core the tomatoes and slip off the skins.
Pour out the tomato water and bring a splash of vegetable oil to medium high heat in the dutch oven. Add the onions, chili and garlic and saute until lightly browned.
Add the tomatoes and smash down a few times to break them up. Turn the heat to medium low, cover the pot, and cook until the tomatoes are broken down and liquid is reduced to about half (around 10 minutes)
Uncover and reduce heat to low. Using an immersion blender puree to a smooth consistency. You can also carefully transfer the masala to a blender, puree until smooth, and the return to low heat in the pot.
Once the dal is tender and the sauce is reduced to desired thickness, stir the dal into the masala and bring back to medium heat. Cook until heated through.
Stir in the tempered spices, salt to taste, top with cilantro and serve.