I have recently discovered dals. Not that I did not know that they existed, but that they were easy to make and not just restaurant fare. Many of the recipes I have found call for cooking the legumes in a pressure cooker—which I do not own—or alternatively cooking them for hours. I have found that neither of these is required to produce a decent dal.
Eilene sprung the fact that several friends were coming over, so I had to increase the amount I had originally planned to make. It was fortunate—for me—that two of the three friends did not show. I think I could have fed one more with what I had made, but a third guest might have gone hungry.
A dal is a bean/legume/pulse that has been split and had its hull removed. This allows dals to cook more quickly and smoothly that using the whole beans. There are many types of dal, Today, I am using mung bean dal (moong in Hindi).
I had bought a box of Shan Dal Curry mix that I wanted to try out. I took part of the recipe on the spice box and combined it with part of a second recipe I had found on-line. I also incorporated a couple of techniques I read about in some other recipes.
In some of the recipes, the word tadka is translated as “tempering.” This refers to the technique of frying some of the spices in oil before adding them to the dish. This can be done at the beginning—before adding any starchy ingredients—or just before the dish has finished cooking—as a finishing spice. Many western cooks call this “blooming” the spices, to extract their full flavors.
After Dinner Note: This was a good dish, but next time I will probably use my own spice blend. I found the Shan mix a bit heavy handed and too spicy for my taste. I served this dal with a carrot salad and store bought roti—I am going to have to learn how to make these as well.
Karl’s Moong Dal Tadka with Chingri (Shrimp)
1½ cups moong dal
1½ cups raw shrimp (leave out for vegetarian/Vegan)
3 Tbs. ghee (use oil for Vegan), separate uses
¼ cup green onion (white parts only)
1 tomato, diced finely
2 Tbs. Shan Dal curry
3 Tbs. dal masoor (split red lentils)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
10 Kiefer lime leaves
1 Fresno chili, sliced
1. Put the moong dal in a dry pot and toast them, stirring frequently, over medium high heat until they are lightly golden browned.
Tip: It is a very short trip from light brown to dark brown (burnt), so keep a close eye out.
2. Cover the dal by an inch with cool water and let them soak for two hours.
Note: You can do all of your cooking in the same pot—letting the dal soak in a mixing bowl—but I find it simpler just to use two pots.
3. Remove the shrimp shells and put the shells in a small pot with two cups of water.
Tip: Refrigerate the shrimp in a separate bowl until later.
4. Bring the pot of shrimp shells to a boil and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Tip: I am not one to let any flavor escape. The shrimp shells make a good, quick seafood broth to jump start the flavor of this dish.
5. Strain out the shells and reserve the liquid.
6. Drain the moong dal and reserve.
Tip: Discard the soaking water.
7. Put one tablespoon of ghee into a medium/large pot and heat over a medium high heat.
8. Add the green onions and sauté until soft, about two minutes.
9. Add the tomato and continue cooking until the tomato has started to break down, about 5-7 minutes.
Tip: Stir the tomato frequently to keep it from burning.
10. Sprinkle in the dal curry mix and cook one minute more.
11. Pour the shrimp water into a measuring cup and add enough water to make two full cups. Add this to the pot.
12. Stir in the moong dal and dal masoo.
13. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
Tip: Stir the pot occasionally.
Note: The dals will be very soft at this point. If you like a very smooth dal, you can transfer the mixture to a standing blender and process until it is a puree. For a more rustic dal you can use a whisk or an immersion blender to break up as much of the dal as you wish.
14. When the dal is at your preferred consistency, stir in the shrimp and simmer for two minutes.
15. Add the remaining ghee to a small skillet, over medium high heat, and add the garlic.
16. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds and then add the ginger and lime leaves.
17. Continue sautéing the mix for 30 seconds more and then stir the mixture into the dal.
Note: This mixture is your tadka.
18. Transfer the dal to a serving bowl—or individual bowls—and garnish with slices of Fresno chili.