Basic Yellow Dal – the best comfort food

Some food just gives you that instant calm and satisfied feeling, takes you to a place where you feel nurtured and confident. Growing up I remember getting back home from a long day at school, frustrated with something very silly and venting to mom while she cooked dinner. I would sit on the counter and snack on whatever it is she was using, onions, cabbage, green peas.,. and talk as if it was the end of the world. She would listen, give me a hug and say ‘Tomorrow is a new and better day, don’t worry”. And at that moment everything felt good. This dish takes me back to that moment, it is the ultimate comfort food in my book.
And in case your wondering, Yes, I was a very dramatic teenager!
FullSizeRender 3India has numerous regional cuisine and every region has its own way of making this basic yellow dal. My way is a hybrid of my mom’s Bengali cooking and my mom-in-laws Havyaka style. I cook it for almost 3 hours in low heat either in a Crockpot or a Tagine, but thats not necessary. I prefer slow cooking because it really enhances the flavors and allows them to mingle with each other. You can use a pressure cooker and make this a quick meal too.


I use Shallots and Grape tomatoes in this recipe. But you can use regular red onion and tomatoes if thats what you already have in your pantry. Grape tomatoes have extra sweetness, which enhances the flavors of the ginger, plus the red ovals look nice on a plate. As for the Shallots, they integrate better with the dal and have a milder flavor when compared to a regular onion which maintains its shape even if finely chopped.

This can be served with plain white rice, cumin rice or roti.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 3 hours      Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy FullSizeRender 2 Ingredients:
For the Dal:

  • 1 cup Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea)
  • 2 tbsp Moong Bean
  • 2 tbsp Chana Dal (Split Chickpea)
  • 3-4 Green Chilli Peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 inch Ginger Root, finely chopped
  • 9-10 Grape Tomatoes, cut.
  • 6-7 Shallots, Cut
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (or more depending on your personal taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder

For Tempering:

  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Asafetida (Hing)
  • 4-5 Curry leaves
  • 2-3 Dried Red Chillies
  • 1 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)

For Garnish:

  • 2 tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped


Cooking the Dal:

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils for 30-40 mins.
  2. Drain the water, transfer it to the cooking pot. To this add the chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies, ginger, salt and turmeric. Add 3 cups of water. Stir Well
  3. Cook on medium heat till you get a boil, then reduce heat to low and let cook for around 3 hours (Or till the lentils are soft). If the dal is too thick, you can add more water to get desirable consistency. Check salt and add more if needed based on taste.

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  1. Heat Ghee in a small pan. Add the curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds and dried red chillies. Let it crackle.
  2. Add the Asafetida. Fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Pour this entire tempering, along with the ghee in to the cooked dal and mix it in. You can also serve with the tempering on top of it.

Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

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  • I prefer Grape Tomatoes for the sweetness they add, you can use 1 regular tomato also.
  • I use Shallots because they integrate better and have a milder flavor, you can use 1 regular onion if thats what you have in your pantry.
  • This can be cooked in a pressure cooker as well. Let the cooker whistle 6-7 minutes or more, until the lentils are soft.
  • Oil can be used instead of Ghee for the tempering.

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