Tarka dal (simple version)

Both my kids are very partial to Indian lentil side dishes, but for different reasons.  Lindsey sees them as a valuable source of protein in connection with her current low-cal whole food diet, where Adam just likes them in preference to some other veg.  Tarka dal is just an essential addition to an Indian meal – a garlicky, soupy dish that soaks up into nan bread beautifully and contrasts beautifully with hotter, sweeter curries.


This is a relatively quick and simple version for Lindsey’s benefit.  You can of course make a more sophisticated version with separate spices (here I suggest a curry paste, which of course you could also make in advance from fresh spices and oil), as I would normally do – this will be better and will take longer, particularly if you use urid dal or chana dal (yellow split peas).  Red lentils are the poor relation of the lentil family but do have the advantage that they don’t have to be pre-soaked (though it does help).  This version has no claims whatever to authenticity, particularly through the inclusion of desiccated coconut, but is nonetheless tasty!

Methi tarka dal


  • Lentils (red lentils for speed but otherwise urid, chana or other variety)
  • Curry paste, to taste
  • Garlic (easy garlic ideal)
  • Dessert spoon of desiccated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon greek yogurt or cream
  • Chilli sauce (optional)

Add lentils to a small pan and pour boiling water over them.  Leave for 10 minutes or so. Put on the heat and stir in curry paste, then add garlic and coconut (plus chilli if that is to your taste), and season well.  Stir regularly and top up with water at regular intervals until the lentils are tender – around 30-40 minutes.  Add garam masala and yogurt and serve immediately with other curries and rice.


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