Garlic and cumin dal with tomatoes, chilli, and coriander: This is India at its best

Google will show you many ways to make this. I’ve opted for this recipe because it’s one that was shared by my family friend from Delhi and is the one I keep coming back to. 


250g chana dal

1 litre of water

1 teaspoon ground turmeric


3 tbsp vegetable oils

1 tsp cumin seeds

110g white onions, thinly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground

½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder or mild chilli powder

1 tsp ground coriander

Finely chopped tomato, 90g

2.5cm ginger root, sliced in matchsticks

Salt, to your liking

To garnish: Chop coriander

  • Place the chana daal, water, and turmeric in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer uncovered for 1¼ hours, until the dal is soft, stirring every few minutes to make sure the dal doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Use a potato masher to mash the dal. Turn off the heat and let cool.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. After a few seconds, add cumin seeds. Next, add the onions. Fry for 8 minutes, stirring often so that they brown evenly. Stir in the garlic. After frying for a minute, add the crushed fennel seed, chilli powder, and ground coriander. Once the tomato is softened, add the ginger to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Pour the tadka mixture over the cooked dal. Add enough boiling water to thin out the dal. Let the dal simmer for a few more minutes to heat through. Once it is heated through, season it with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh coriander. Serve with rice or roti.