All-time Favorite Recipes #3: Dahl

I have been lucky enough to be in the company of many truly good cooks most of my life.  My family got this recipe from dear family friends, of whom the husband is Indian.  They used to babysit me from when I was 2 years old; some of my most early food memories stem from my time with the Baidwans, and every time I whip up this dahl recipe, my house smells like memories.  My dad was the one who most frequently made the dahl in our family, and he always nailed it completely – tasted exactly like the Baidwan’s version.  When I left home for college and got homesick for dahl, I tried to make it several times, but I was always missing some component.  Finally, I got around to asking my dad to write down the recipe for me.  My dad has since passed away, and when that hankering for dahl comes on, I am so grateful to have his version of the Baidwan’s dahl, and I am so happy to share it with you!  Create memories making this fabulously nourishing, aromatic, delicious and addictive classic Indian stew!  It’s like a hug on the inside.  This is an exact transcript of my dad’s version of dahl, it conveys his sense of humor nicely.  Enjoy!


1 large pot, 1 smaller pot.

(in smaller pot)
boil lentils and then simmer

(in large pot)

  • ½ c. oil.  just plain old vegetable oil.
  • 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds.
  • 2 large onions. diced.
  • 2 to 3 hot peppers. Jalapeño or Serrano.
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons of small diced fresh Ginger.
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons of Curry.
  • 1 large can Tomatoes
  • Salt to taste.

oil in pot. medium high heat but not smoking.
Caraway seeds in hot oil. seeds pop turn down to medium heat. be careful.
don’t burn seeds.

add diced Onion, Jalapeno and Ginger. cook on medium heat until Onions turn translucent.

turn heat down to low.

add Curry. watch carefully to not burn Curry. Curry burns easily.

cook until onions have become Curried Onions.
Onions have become one with the curry.

drain water from cooked Lentils, add Lentils to Oily, Curried, Jalapeno, Gingered Onions.

cook until Lentils have become one with the Curry.

add 1 large can Tomatoes. smash the tomatoes first.

simmer until you can’t stand it anymore, stir frequently so stuff doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Oh yeah! don’t forget to cook up a bunch of rice. and don’t forget the Mango pickle.

A couple of things Dad left out of the recipe:

  • When you add your can (or quart jar of homemade canned tomatoes) of tomatoes, also add an entire full can (or jar) of water to the pot, this rinses out your can (or jar) to get all the tomatoey goodness, and keeps the stew stew-y.  It will help it to not burn as well.
  • Use whatever rice you have on hand – we usually use basmati rice nowadays, but back in the day we used regular long-grain rice.
  • Mango pickle.  Pretty much a non-negotiable condiment with dahl in my book.  You can find it at some Asian grocery stores, all Indian grocery stores and sometimes in the “International” section of regular grocery stores.  Ask for it.  You will be glad you did!  Usually the pickle comes in large chunks of mango that we fish out and chop up as needed.  In order of most delicious – the top mango pickle brands according to me:
  1. King’s Brand (not in picture because we ate it all!)
  2. Bedekar’s Brand (really delicious, but it can be oily)
  3. National (I try to avoid getting this one, but when desperate…)

4 Responses

  1. Debbie Fox says:

    Mara: This was (is) a slam dunk! The smell of the caraway, onions, gineger, and jalepeno cooking was wonderful. And the taste, WOW! It’s just what I needed. One of the best parts of the whole experience was that I have everything that I needed to make your recipe! I am addicted to cooking blogs and have a pantry, freezer, and frig packed with stuff to prove it. Except the mango pickle. I’ll try that next time. I just made a pledge to myself to “cook with what I’ve got”, and tonight it worked. Thanks!

  2. Mara says:

    Debbie: I am so glad that you liked this one! Isn’t the perfume of this dish cooking the absolute best? By the way, your goal to use what you have on hand is a good one – I should certainly try that once in a while; and, yes, get yourself some mango pickle for next time!

  3. Meg Klepack says:

    Oooh, it’s so exciting to run into another mango pickle fanatic!! I got so excited to see you mention it that I just had to comment! I lived in India for a year and it took me about 9 months of that time to acquire the taste for it. Now I’m completely obsessed. The other relish I grew to love was coconut chutney. It’s more of a south India thing but completely divine. I’m sure it wouldn’t be that tricky to make… Speaking of, it must not be that challenging to make mango pickle either. Ever thought of trying a DIY?

  4. Mara says:

    Hey Meg! It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone out here in mango pickle land! I have never thought of trying to make it myself, my taste memory is just too strong for the good ol’ jarred brands! That said, you got my wheels turning, and I think that it probably wouldn’t be that tricky to make! I have had coconut chutney, I think… is it green with cilantro? Gotta go stir the saag paneer! Thanks for your comment!

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