Dal Fry – Lentils The Punjabi Way

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On the phone I tell her that I will not be hungry. “It’ll be late and I think we’ll just relax and then go to bed!” She fusses and persists as she always does - I let her. I know she needs to do this. She has been planning for weeks already, asking us every time we talked on the phone what should she cook, anything particular we like for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It usually takes up several minutes of our conversation, both of us talking with great passion, before we get to other topics, seemingly inconsequential in comparison.

Arriving back in Dubai always feels great. I enter my parents spacious apartment and always my first steps are towards the large set of ceiling-to-floor windows in the living room. The view always dazzles me - looking out towards Dubai Marina the skyscrapers glitter in the evening sky. On the other side I see the faint outline of the Burj Khalifa towering into the sky above the new skyline of downtown Dubai while to my right the Burj Al Arab glows like a sail in the wind lighting the sky in different colors. It leaves me in awe. I remember back in the early 90s when there was nothing but a dessert in this area. Dubai has grown exponentially over the past decade and while I do not always concede with the methods used, I still look on bewildered.

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After the suitcases have been unpacked and presents exchanged, gossip shared I walk into the kitchen. There on the countertop I see a bowl covered with a plate, next to it a small aluminium foil package. I uncover the bowl and smile. She knows me well - but then she is my mother. With all the talk about the opulent dishes, it is the simple contents of the bowl that makes me feel like I am home again.

Dal fry and two chapatis - this is my soul food. 
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We North Indians love our dals but I believe it is the combination of three different types of legumes that makes the dal fry a little more special. The spices warm from the inside out and sooth all the right spots. While the ingredient list looks long, do not let it intimidate you. The spices and legumes are readily available in many grocery stores and/or Asian/Indian store. The beauty of this dish is that you can be creative and really use any type of lentils and legumes that you might have in your pantry. Perfect for a chilly blustery Autumn day.

Recipe: Dal Fry - The Punjabi Way

Printable version of recipe here

Dal Fry by Meeta K. Wolff 0201

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4


  • 100g Toor dal - Split pigeon peas
  • 100g Mung dal - split mung beans
  • 100g Channa dal - split chickpea
  • 1 tablespoon ghee
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • Pinch of Asafoetida
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • A small piece of ginger, mashed
  • ½ green chili, finely chopped
  • small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped


  1. Wash all the dals well, then soak in a bowl for about 20 minutes. Place the dals in a pressure cooker and fill it with enough water to just cover the dal. On medium heat allow to boil then place the lid of the pressure cooker and cook till the dal is soft but still retains it’s consistency. This process can also be done in a pot, it will just take a little longer for the dal to cook.
  2. While the dal is cooking place a large saucepan and heat on medium. Melt the 1 tablespoon of ghee. Add the turmeric powder once the ghee is hot. Then add the onions making sure not to brown but sauté until they turn translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add the other dry spices - cumin, coriander, garam masala and chili powder - to the pan and cook for about 10 seconds.
  3. Once the dal is cooked transfer it to the pan with the onions and spices, adding salt to taste. Check the desired consistency, adding water if it is too thick. Boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Heat a small skillet on medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons of ghee. Add the mustard seeds and heat until they begin to pop.
  5. Add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, garlic, ginger and chilies cooking for a few minutes.
  6. Pour the mixture over the dal, mix dal well, adjusting the seasoning. Top with chopped coriander leaves. Serve hot with rice or fresh chapattis or nans.

Notes: You will find detailed information about the Indian Spice Kitchen in my Food Guide.


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This is the soothing kind of meal I love coming home to after a long journey or a long not so good day at work. Of course, when mum makes it, it is just a little better – isn’t it always? My dal fry is pretty close to mum’s – it has just the right heat, the tart sweetness from the tomatoes and the spices provide a fantastic melange of comforting flavors.


Glad to be back home in Weimar after the several weeks of traveling. My schedule has eased up just completing a few small projects and post-processing tasks for the next few weeks. I am really looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and cooking … for me and my blog. I’ve neglected this space for quite some time. Thank you so much for your patience. In my upcoming posts I’ll show you around my Dubai workshop and take you on a virtual trip to Thailand. Hope you stay tuned.

More Punjabi favorites from WFLH:

MutterPaneer_0041CRMeetaK2a_thumb ChickpeaSpinach01aframed2 8044128589_871e3bb71e_b
Mutter Paneer – Indian Cheese with Peas in a Creamy Tomato Sauce Chickpeas with Spinach – Channa Palak Indian Chicken Curry

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. This post made me smile (although I wanted to see the view!)... No matter I wasn't hungry I think I would eat this kind of comfort food when I got home (for home is always where mom is). I love dal, love it, but this is a version I have never tried. It looks fabulous!

    1. It was good to be with mom and let go of the responsibilities for a few days. Mum cooked and took care of me and I needed the pampering ;o)

  2. Love reading your post! You are right , our mothers know us well. I never made daal with three different types of legumes- Your recipe sounds lovely- Can't wait to make this for tonight's dinner! Excited about your new posts on workshop and Thailand!

    1. Glad you liked the post. It's a lovely mix of different legumes and you can use your favorite dals in this. Let mek know how it turned out.

  3. A beautiful dal! Wonderfully comforting and perfectly spicy.



  4. It's weird how I can now sort of imagine the view you must have seen now that I have witnessed and experienced part of Dubai with my own eyes.. ;) Although I did miss seeing the Burj al Arab but there needs to be something for next time right? It was great seeing you again in Dubai and I loved the workshop! Can't wait to see your pics (of both Dubai and Thailand)

    1. I hope there will be a next time Simone! It was special to have you in Dubai. Dubai pics are up --- Thailand will follow!

  5. Looks comforting Meeta. Home made from mum is always the best!

  6. Oh, the magnificent love of mothers! They always know what we need even if we insist we don't, don't they? Love dal fry. It is such a comfort food.

    Stunning photography though I was expecting the second photo to be the breathtaking view from your parents apartment :)

    1. Thanks Lail! Ahh The stunning view can be seen on this post http://www.whatsforlunchhoney.net/2012/11/dubai-state-of-art-food-photography.html

  7. love this post struck a chord and got me reminiscing about my days with my folks in Dubai.Mothers are such blessings!

    1. They are indeed. Dubai is a pulsating city ... and mothers always rock!

  8. Aaaah, we really have to get to Dubai together one day! Mostly because we'd have a ball but now also because I want your mom's dal fry!! There's very little I love more than a lentil curry and this looks creamy and divine.

    1. Jeanne I think my mum would love you! And yes to Dubai together ... 2014?

  9. To arrive home and be greeted with your favourite foods shows a love only mothers have. Growing up in a British household in the 60's I would not have had dal on the menu, but in todays scene it would be second nature. If only I had a favourite food from my childhood…sigh.

    1. Does not everyone have a favorite food ... or maybe a few? Dal is the kind of comfort food that always grounds me, cures any problems and comforts! Hope you make this!

  10. Meeta, what a wonderful write up ! Mothers are the best arent they? Something so warm and comforting about eating the food one grows up with ...Dal looks fantastic ...such a lovely color!

    1. Thank Aditi glad you liked it. Dal has healing properties in so many ways!

  11. looks so professional and the background settings are amazing...exotic clicks!!

  12. i tried this for a dinner party that i was hosting last saturday and my guests loved it... Thank you very much for this lovely recipe... I have bookmarked it and will be making it several times :)

  13. Great post.Looking so fabulous dal fry.Thanks meeta mam for this yummy recipe...
    Lunch Time


Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

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