This recipe transforms the humble lentil into a fragrant and soothing Indian-inspired dish. The spices help fight inflammation and the rice and lentils pair together to create a complete protein. Daal is a comforting dish that originates from India and can be compared to split pea soup only with Indian spices. In India, daal, also spelled dal or dahl, is the word used to describe lentils themselves and also any dishes made from them.
You can use any type of lentils that you want in this recipe, so don’t worry if you can’t find any red lentils. Different types are more commonly used in different areas of India. In the north, people tend to use Chana daal, i.e., yellow split peas. People in the south, tend to favor either mung beans (Mung daal) or pigeon peas (Toor daal). Dal is a spicy dish that includes a lot of flavorful ingredients. Some people take a shortcut by putting all the ingredients in the pot with the lentils at the same time. However, this robs the dish of its full culinary potential. To fully appreciate all that daal has to offer, you need to temper your ingredients to release all the flavor and fragrance. All you do to temper ingredients is follow the recipe instructions and cook the ingredients other than the lentils in hot oil as described.
Dal is traditionally served over rice. Jasmine and basmati rice are more aromatic varieties that complement the flavors and fragrances in the dish itself. As implied by the name, jasmine rice has a slight floral quality. If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, look for the brown variety of whichever rice you choose rather than the white. Brown rice still contains the seed, also known as the germ, and the outer husk of each grain, i.e., the bran.
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Serving Size: 4 servings
Heat oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned around the edges, 5–7 minutes.
Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring often, just to take the edge off garlic, about 30 seconds. Add 1/3 cup water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates about 1 minute.
Add the lentils, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add 4 cups water to the lentil and spice mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 20-25 minutes; season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Cover dal with a lid and keep warm over low heat while you make the toppings.
Finely grate the zest from lime into a small bowl. Cut lime in half and squeeze juice into a bowl (approximately 2 tablespoons). Add red onion, sugar, and a large pinch of salt and toss, squeezing onion with your hands to help it soften quickly.
Mix cashew milk yogurt and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; season with salt.
Serve dal over rice and top with the cashew milk yogurt sauce and pickled onions.
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