Dal Tadka is a rich, creamy dal made with a mix of lentils. It is very similar to Dal Fry. Both are made with a preparation of lentils and oil from a vaghar. In fact, the recipes are so similar with all of the different variations out there, it is hard to nail down what the defining difference is.
After a lot of research, I found the main difference to be the amount of oil supplied in the vaghar (tadka). Dal Fry preparations tend to be more oily than Dal Tadka.
Tadka is Hindi for the tempering of spices (vaghar is Gujarati).
When you make Dal Tadka, you can choose just about any mix of Indian lentils that you have on hand. My recipe uses ½ cup each of toor (tuver), masoor and moong. Feel free to sub in the lentils you have on hand or use two of the three, as long as the total adds up to 1 ½ cups.
In India, you will mostly find Dal Tadka at Dhabas. Dhabas are open-air restaurants with cots where truck drivers and other travellers will rest. These truckstop-type stalls serve mostly comfort food, of which Dal Tadka is a staple. That is why the dish reminds me so much of my childhood in India. My family went on a lot of roadtrips, whether we were travelling from Bombay to our farm, or our factory, or my boarding school.
For the Dal
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 small onion about ½ cup chopped finely chopped (take ¼ cup out)
- 1 green chili
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili
- ½ tbsp garlic
- ½ tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- Salt 1 tsp or to taste
- ½ cup toor dal
- ½ cup masoor dal
- 2 tbsp moong dal
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 whole red chilies
- ? tsp hing
- ¼ cup onion finely chopped
- ½ tsp kashmiri chili
For the Dal
- Heat the ghee. Add cumin, small onion and green chili. Cook until brown.
- Add turmeric, kashmiri chili, garlic, ginger paste, tomato paste and salt. Let cook for 30 seconds.
- Add rinsed dal and 2 cups of water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles (or 7 minutes).
- Transfer to a serving bowl.
Make the vaghar
- Heat ghee and add cumin, then red chilies, then hing (asafoetida), and the onion. Cook until onions are golden.
- Add kashmiri chili.
- Mix about half of your vaghar into your dal. Pour the rest on top and serve.
Dal Tadka can be eaten with parathas, rice, or roti. Naan is not usually served at a dhaba, but at home if that is what is available it is just fine.
Spice level. You can add more chillies or less to get the heat you prefer. You can also change up the lentils that you use. If you don’t have a certain kind, it’s ok. Just make it with what you have.