Monday, August 02, 2010

Curried Chana Dal

I first encountered chana dal on a takeout menu from an Indian restaurant in University Village near the South Loop. It turned out to be a kind of barbecued chickpea dish, and it was quite delicious. From that, I assumed chana dal was the Indian word for chickpea.

And then I saw a bag of chana dal in the Indian grocery store on Devon Avenue. They were much smaller than chickpeas, and they were split in half like lentils. They did have that little bump that chickpeas have, and the same color. Needless to say, a big old four-pound bag of those ended up coming home with me.

I soaked about a cup of them for a couple of hours and then cooked them in water. When they were tender, I took a taste. They were delicious - nutty, toasty, and a little sweet. They are more tender and have more depth of flavor than yellow lentils, and they have more substance than red lentils. Red lentils have a place in my culinary cupboard, and I still have more to learn about yellow lentils, I think, but chana dal has become an instant star.

I've been watching the new Cooking Channel since it launched last month. Among the many recycled early Food TV shows are some Canadian and British shows, including two that highlight Indian cuisine. I have been watching these shows with great interest, and they have re-sparked my interest in cooking Indian food. I decided it was long past time I pulled out some seeds and spices and whipped me up a dal.

This would work with yellow lentils if you don't have or can't find chana dal. But they are definitely worth finding.

Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes


1 cup dried chana dal (can substitute yellow or red lentils)
7 cups water, total
2 Tbsp ghee or grapeseed oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp ginger, minced
1/4 tsp asaefetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1 medium tomato, chopped (or 1/2 cup canned)
3/4 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Sort the chana dal and put in a bowl with 4 cups of water. Cover and
let soak for 2 to 3 hours. Drain and rinse well. Put in a 3-quart
saucepan with the 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat,
cover, and let simmer until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.

While the chana dal is cooking, heat the ghee in a large skillet over
medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until it turns translucent.
Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute.

Add the spices in order given and continue cooking, stirring
constantly, for another 2 minutes, until the spices are sizziling and
aromatic, but not burning.

Add the tomatoes and stir to de-glaze the pan. Add a little water if
necessary, preferably from the chana dal pan. Continue to cook,
stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have cooked down and
thickened. Add coconut milk and cook until warmed through.

Drain the chana dal (the liquid can be frozen for use in soups and
stews) and add it to the onion tomato mixture. Serve over cilantro or
dill rice.


Exported from Home Cookin 6.46 (

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