As I mentioned in my Foodie Guide to Penang last week, there is a wonderful mixture of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines and flavors in Penang, Malaysia. Little India is a must stop when you are in town and the food is amazing. As you approach this unique part of town, you will notice right away a change in the air. This part of town is full of energy (a contrast to Penang’s normally sleepy vibe)– every shop seems to have their own radio blasting Indian music on high and people are out and about selling and buying floral garlands and dresses in every color you can imagine. But most importantly you will smell the distinct aromas of all the wonderful spices.
Tarka dal is an easy, healthy, and affordable dish to make at home that manages to capture a heap of those lush flavors and spices Peter and I encountered in Little India. This recipe is made with red lentils which cook quickly. They are also high in fiber and protein and low in fat. Not only will this tarka dal fill you up, but it’ll keep you full too.
It is seasoned heavily with onions, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and turmeric — many of which are known to have anti inflammatory properties along with a myriad of other health benefits. Because these flavors are so bold, there was almost no need to add any additional salt (but you can of course if your taste buds desire!).
You can serve this dish up with a side of rice or flatbread, but I must admit that I was craving neither of those when I made the tarka dal for myself, and I scooped it up instead with potato chips and it was so strangely good that I have to recommend it for those of you who are shameless like me.
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 tsps turmeric
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsps cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 bird's eye chilies, chopped
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
- salt, pepper to taste
- coriander, to garnish
- Add lentils to a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water over the top of the beans
- Simmer lentils over medium heat, removing any "scum" that may come up to the top of the water
- Mix in turmeric and butter and continue simmering until lentils are soft (approx 15 min)
- In a large pan, heat cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant
- Remove from heat and grind seeds in mortar and pestle
- Spoon butter to pan and melt over low-medium heat
- Add in onion, garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, chilies, garam masala, and ginger
- Stir until garlic is golden brown
- When lentils are soft, pour spice mixture from pan over lentils and mix well
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish with coriander leaves
- Serve warm with rice or bread
adapted from http://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/lentils-and-basic-tarka-dhal-recipe/
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