Restaurant-Style Dal Fry (GF Vegan Creamy Lentil Dish)

February 28, 2022
We eat dal (lentils) nearly every day. We usually eat dal with very simple seasonings, but some days call for dal fry. Dal fry is lusciously creamy, a bit spicy and absolutely amazing. I have a special outdoor stove made of mud and cow dung, called a chulha, which I've been using extensively. Something about food cooked over a wood fire takes cuisine to the next level. A chulha isn't necessary to make this dish, of course, and it will taste fantastic regardless of how it's cooked :) ! However, I *definitely* recommend making this and other Indian dishes over an open fire because the taste is absolutely mind-blowing.
dal fry

Restaurant-Style Dal Fry (GF Vegan Creamy Lentil Dish)

utensils YIELDS 6 servings
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  • 117g Yellow Dal (Toor Dal)
  • Water
  • To taste Salt
  • 1/3 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
  • 3 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Hing (Optional)
  • 2–3 Tbsp Cooking Oil or Vegan Butter
  • 3 Thai Green Chilies (Optional)
  • Pinch Mustard Seeds
  • Pinch Fenugreek Seeds
  • Pinch Cumin Seeds
  • 4 Cloves Diced Garlic
  • Half thumb Grated Ginger
  • 2 Small, Thinly Sliced Red Onions
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
  • 3 Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/3 tsp Coriander Powder
  • 8 Sweet Neem Leaves (Optional)
  • 1.5 Handfuls Fresh Cilantro
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1. Start by washing the dal. I rinse dal three times before cooking. You can soak the dal for at least an hour before cooking if you want it to cook faster but I find it unnecessary with a pressure cooker.

2. Next, Add the dal to a pressure cooker and add enough water so that it covers your second knuckle on your middle finger. I enjoy thick dal, and this amount of water is perfect for me. If you prefer a thinner dal, add more water.

3. Add the turmeric, chili powder, salt, coriander powder, hing, and one sliced green chili to the cooker. If you’re not making dal fry and merely want perfect simple dal, add a couple diced tomatoes (2-3) to your dal.

4. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and allow to whistle about 5 times (this may take about 20-30 minutes depending on your cooker). The dal should be soft and mash easily when you check it. (Note: do not open the cooker lid without releasing the steam/pressure inside!)

5. Using a round potato masher, mash the dal thoroughly so it becomes a thick and creamy soup.

6. In a separate pot, add oil and let heat over medium-high flame for 1–2 minutes. Ideally this should be the pot you made your vegetable dish in (Indian meals are always served with dal and a vegetable dish). After cooking the vegetables there should be some caramelization on the bottom which will add an extra dimension of flavor to your dal fry. It’s not necessary but it adds a lot of oomph to the dish 🙂 .

7. Once the oil is hot add two finely chopped green chilies and allow them to fry until their color becomes light.

8. Now add the fenugreek, mustard seeds, and cumin. Let their flavors infuse in the oil until the cumin seeds begin browning.

9. Add the ginger and garlic and allow to turn slightly darker in color before adding your onions.

10. When the onions caramelize you can add a bit of turmeric and red chili to the mix (1/4 tsp of each) and cook for another half minute.

11. Add your diced tomatoes and cook until they are completely soft. Mash them with your spoon and allow them to become dark in color.

12. Now add a small amount of coriander powder (1/3 tsp). Mix well.

13. It’s time to add the dal. Be very cautious while adding the dal to your pot as it can splatter. Keep your face and hands as far as possible from the pot while you pour. You can do this in segments to avoid incident.

14. Stir well and add the sweet neem leaves. I personally don’t like them so I omit them, but they are considered by many to be essential to dal fry.

15. Add about half your chopped cilantro and allow the dal to boil for 5–10 minutes. It should become a bit thicker.

16. Finally, take off the heat and add the rest of your chopped cilantro. Stir well and serve with freshly cooked rice.

Also by Jessi: Curried Kabocha Squash

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Photo: Jessi Ferguson

Jessica Ferguson
Jessi is an American expat living in India with her husband, child, and animal companions. She has been vegan for close to a decade and cares for sick and injured freely roaming animals with her husband. If she's not chasing after dogs or a toddler, Jessi can usually be found snuggling local cows, doing yoga, or meditating. For glow-ups of cute free roaming animals, check out @Karunya4animals on twitter!


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