Channa Dal (yellow lentil dal) has gotten a lot of press lately for its extremely low glycemic index and health benefits for diabetics and others. Also, it tastes delicious! It may take a little longer to cook than other dals, so a long soaking period or leaving extra time for simmering is advisable. This is a traditional Hindu temple vegetarian recipe, so it doesn’t have any onions or garlic, substituting, if you wish, asafoetida instead (be careful, however, because asafoetida, also known as “hing,” is strong, a little goes a LONG way–and it seems to have its fans, who love it, and its detractors, who can’t stand it (who’d say it has a nauseating taste and smell that could drive almost anyone far away from your dal dish).
1 cup dry yellow channa dal
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 of a dried red chile (2-3 inch section)
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
2-3 tablespoons grated ginger
1/4 tsp ground roasted cumin
1/2 tablespoon butter (olive oil if vegan)
small pinch asafoetida
3 cloves and 2 cardamom seeds crushed coarsely in mortar and pestle
Wash dal and pick out any stones or imperfections. Put dal in pan and cover with approx 1″ of water above level of the dal, cover container and put in fridge several hours or overnight. After dal has soaked, simmer it in about 5 cups water for at least half an hour (depending how long you soak it, more or less cooking time may be needed).
When dal is within 5-10 minutes of being cooked (should be soft, so that can dissolve between your fingers, but not gritty or too liquidy), put a little bit of oil into a pan over medium heat. Add 1 tsp cumin seed, 1/2 tsp red chile powder, and 1 stick cinnamon, stir in and allow to sputter and brown up a little. Temporarily remove pan from heat and add 1 tsp turmeric and 2-3 tablespoons grated ginger. Put back on heat and allow to warm up a little while stirring. When dal is ready drain it (keep the water in reserve in case you wish to add that after to bring more liquid to the dish), then add the cooked dal to the pan with the oil and spices. Stir together and warm. Add a little bit of salt (perhaps 1/4-1/2 tsp) and of sugar (again, perhaps 1/4-1/2 tsp), tasting after you add each. You may have to add more salt after you add the sugar, as the sugar changes the taste of the salt. It may be helpful to add a small amount of water after you add the salt and sugar, to help with mixing them in. Now, turn off heat and add a number of spices on top of the dal, not stirring them in (you will stir them in after they sit on top for one half hour)–add 1/4 tsp ground cumin, add 1/2 tblspn butter (or oil), small pinch asafoetida, and 3 cloves/2 cardamom seeds crushed in mortar and pestle. Cover container, leaving these spices on top for 1/2 hour. After 1/2 hour stir these in gently and serve dal.