Indian, Vegan Cooking

Tarka Daal

This dish is one I don’t often make as a main course, but usually as one of several dishes in a thali (a plate of rice and several curry dishes). However, it is definitely tasty enough to be a solo showstopper, so here it is in all it’s glory…

Tarka Daal literally means ‘fried lentils’ but it’s actually not the lentils which are fried. They are simmered in stock seasoned with spices until soft. The “fried” bit refers to onions and spices which are fried and added to the daal before serving.


  • Soaked chana daal (split chickpeas) (I usually soak in cold water in the fridge overnight)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chilli
  • Tumeric
  • Ground ginger
  • Curry powder (or fresh curry leaves)
  • Vegetable stock cube
  • Red onions
  • Mustard seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Cardamom pods (green)
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • My perfect rice!

Step 1

Rinse the lentils in fresh water and prepare the garlic and chilli (save 1 clove of garlic for later).

Step 2

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the daal, garlic, chilli, tumeric (2 heaped tbsp), ground ginger (1 heaped tsp), curry powder (1 heaped tsp), a vegetable stock cube and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer with the pan lid on for about 30 minutes.

Step 3

Prepare the rice as described here.

Step 4

For the tarka, thinly slice the onions and grate or finely chop the garlic and a small piece of ginger.

Step 5

For the spice mix for the tarka, firstly remove the cardamom seeds from their pods. Then toast the cardamom, coriander and cumin seeds in a dry wok.

Step 6

Once toasted, grind the seeds to a powder either in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.

Step 7

In the wok, fry the onions in some oil for about 5 minutes. Add some black mustard seeds and fry for 3 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger and spice mix and fry for a further 3-5 minutes.

Step 8

By now the daal should have cooked for 30 minutes and be soft, use the back of the spoon to crush some of the lentils and the garlic and ginger.  Add the tarka to the daal and mix in.

Step 9

Serve and eat!

This dish also works well with a roti or chapati, which I hope to add a recipe for soon! 😉

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