Everyday Dal

Everyday Dal

Everyday Dal

Dal is renowned for its warming, soothing, and healing properties in South Asia and its diaspora. There's a good reason why this dish is a regular choice: it's simple to create but has a multi-layered taste that becomes richer with time.
There are endless possibilities for cooking dal. To make it more flavorful, add a packet of frozen spinach or add minced garlic into the chhonk. Don't give in to the temptation of using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds! The seeds contribute a unique smoky taste and enhance the texture of the dal.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 cup of red lentils also referred to as red split lentils or masoor dal
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons of ghee
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of ground red chili
  • teaspoon of asafetida optional but highly recommended, see Tip
  • Rice or roti for serving


  • In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils (no need to rinse), turmeric, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 3 cups of water. For a soupier consistency, add an extra cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the lentils reach a loose porridge-like texture. If too thick, add a bit of hot water.
  • Melt the ghee in a small pan or pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant and slightly darker brown, approximately 1 minute. Stir in the red chili powder and asafetida. Toast for a few seconds until aromatic (the asafetida will release a garlic-like aroma), then remove from heat.
  • Taste the lentils and adjust the salt if needed. Drizzle the hot ghee over the lentils, stirring to incorporate or leaving it for a striking presentation. Serve alongside rice or roti.


In South Asian cooking, asafetida, a tree resin, is widely used as a seasoning. It possesses a delightfully strong, somewhat reminiscent of allium, taste that enhances the richness of numerous dishes. While it can be ordered online or found in South Asian grocery stores, it's worth the effort to obtain as it elevates the flavor of this dish. A somewhat suitable substitute, albeit imperfect, is garlic powder.