Dal Fry

When my friend, Prethi, taught me to make dal fry, she said it was a very basic, simple Indian dish.  I can tell you, though, there is nothing simple about the flavor.  This lentil stew or gravy has a rich, complex taste with layers of flavor, finishing with a bit of heat.  I could very happily eat this everyday.


1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons, clarified butter (for vegan, substitute oil)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (small black seeds)
1/4 cup garlic, minced
1 chili sliced
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 tomato, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
cilantro, finely chopped for garnish


  • Prethi cooked the lentils in a pressure cooker, covering them with just over an inch of water.  She had them on high heat until the cooker “rattled” and then simmered for 10 minutes.  They were cooked until they were mush-like.  I don’t have a pressure cooker, so I will have to boil them until they’re falling apart.  
  • Whisk lentils in cooking liquid and set aside
  • Add clarified butter and oil to a frying pan over medium-high heat
  • Add the mustard seeds and cook until the seeds start to pop
  • Add the garlic and chili, cook 2 minutes, stirring
  • Add cumin seeds and onion, cook 2 minutes, stirring
  • Add tomato, cook 3 minutes, continuing to stir
  • Add salt, cook 5 minutes
  • Add purred lentils and turmeric
  • If the texture is thicker than desired (maybe on reheating), just add a little more water
  • Garnish with cilantro, serve over white rice or peas pulao

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