Veg and vegan friendly
Dhal is a staple food in Fiji. Almost every household cooks dhal once a week (sometimes more). This is because apart from being delicious, it goes well with most Indian-fried vegetables and meat. It forms a sort of gravy or base that pairs well with almost any other side dish. Its versatility makes it one of the most loved food in many Fijian homes.
For those of you that aren’t aware, dhal is made from lentils and there are many varieties of lentils available. Different households make dhal in their own way with their personal choice of lentils. There are yellow, red, white, green and even black lentils and these give the different types of dhal their colour. The recipe that I am sharing with you is a mixture of these lentils that give it a deeper, more complex taste.
If you will be making dhal frequently, you can do as I always do and make a batch mixture of the lentils that you can use for months. It will keep just like rice does and needs to be stored in an airtight container. My lentil mix consists of half kg (0.5kg) each of the following lentils: split toor (pigeon pea), masoor (red lentils), urdi/urad – washed (black lentils – will be white in colour as the black skin will be washed off).
You can always put more or less types of lentils in your own dhal mix such as yellow split peas and mung. I usually avoid yellow split peas as it often causes excessive bloating. (Note that lentils have the same effect as beans do on your guts). You can find these lentils in most Indian grocers and even in some supermarkets.
3/4 Cup Lentil Mix
1 Medium Carrot – Round Thin Slices
1 Small Brown Onion – Diced
Salt – To Taste
4 Medium Garlic Cloves – Crushed
1 Small Garlic Clove (Whole)
1 Sprig Curry Leaves (~10 leaves)
1 Large Chilli Bongo/Habanero (Spicy) – Optional
1 Small Tomato – Diced (Optional)
2 Medium Eggplants – Sliced Lengthwise (Optional)
Vegetables (Green Beans/Cauliflower/Broccoli, Green Leaves) – Optional
1 Tbsp (Haldi) Turmeric Powder
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 Tbsp Ghee (or vegetable oil if vegan)
1 Tsp Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds (Sarso)
1/2 Tsp Fenugreek Seeds (Methi)
1/4 Tsp Hing (Asafoetida) Powder – Optional
Coriander Leaves – Optional
- Wash the lentils and soak for 15-20 minutes. Later, in a large pot add the soaked lentils, carrots, eggplants, tomato, vegetables, turmeric powder, 1/3 diced onion, 1 garlic clove (whole), 1/2 tsp vegetable oil, chilli and salt. Give it a good mix and if the dhal does not look vibrant in colour, add more turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp increments at a time (mix and adjust)
- Add 2 cups of water to the pot and boil on stove top for an hour on medium heat, stirring occasionally. If the water is drying up, turn down the heat and add 1/2 cup of water and add more if required as you keep cooking. Do not let the pot run dry
- Once the lentils have completely dissolved, turn off the heat and set the pot aside
- In a separate pan, add the remaining oil and fry the curry leaves till they begin to crackle. Then add hing powder, cumin, mustard and fenugreek seeds. Once they pop and release an aroma, add the onions and sauté till crispy brown. Then add garlic and cook till golden
- Carefully add the fried ingredients to the cooked dhal pot and cover immediately. Be careful as it will release some steam. Let it simmer for 2 minutes
- Mix in the ghee and coriander leaves. Stir and serve hot with rice or roti and any side or chutney.