Unlike the more popular soupy preparation of lentils in India, this is a thicker version, and more like a spread. Fragrant with spices and pepper and also healthy, the Sukhi Dal is very easy to make, and is usually a pleasant change for your palate.
Lentils or as commonly known as Dal in India, is a part of the everyday meal in our homes and almost all homes in India. But I have to confess here that I am not madly in love with this particular dish. However A is. This is home-cooked comfort food for him.The hubby grew up eating a lot of this, and I had none. That could be one of the reasons – my taste buds have not yet grown into it. I do not have to be “loving” all the dishes I make at home. A lot of them are cooked with a whole lot of love for others who adore them. Besides some of you might just pick a liking for it, if you have not ever had it this way before.
While the Sukhi Dal is usually served as a side with the main meal, I realized that it works wonders as a spread or a dip for appetizers, esp. if you are planning to serve a Tapas style meal. The closest dish that I can think of that compares to this is a hummus, but this Dal is cooked and spiced. It is healthy, and tastes good, only I cannot make myself like it enough fall in love with it.
A’s mom uses a whole lot of red dry peppers in it. I use less than half of what is used back home; instead I have used crushed pepper and chile oil drizzled on the top. If you can tolerate the heat, go ahead and use as many pepper as you want. The dish is usually made with the arhar/toor dal (split pigeon peas), but I would think any split husked lentils would work here. All lentils have different taste and flavor and obviously the taste will vary if you use different kind lentils.
Try to use dried chile peppers which are whole and not broken; broken peppers releases the seeds and will make the dal very spicy. If you are using whole peppers, it lends the flavor without making the dish too spicy.
Do not let the dal dry out too much while cooking; it will further thicken while it sits in the pan before it is served. It should NOT be of the consistency that it is cake like and can be sliced. Instead it should be like a smooth paste, like hummus.
Sukhi Dal/Warm Lentil Spread
- 1 cup toor/toovar/arhar/split pigeon peas or any other lentils you want to use (just make sure they are husk free and will cook to a smooth texture)
- 1.5 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 – 2.5 cups water
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
- a generous pinch of asafotida/hing (optional)
- 3 dry whole dried chile pepper
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, diced
- fresh chopped cilantro and fresh lime (optional)
- red crushed pepper
- Chile Oil
Clean, wash and soak dal/lentils for about hour.
Add salt and turmeric powder to the lentils and pressure cook/cook the dal/lentil with 2cups- 2.5 cups of water till the lentils are thoroughly cooked. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a pan; add hing/asafoetida, , cumin seeds and whole dry red chili pepper and fry till the spices splutter and the chilies turn dark brown.
Add the chopped garlic and onions and fry till the onions are medium brown. Add the cooked lentils to the pan. Toss well for the spice mix to combine with the cooked lentils. Cook/simmer at low heat while tossing and stirring from time to time (to prevent sticking at the bottom) until most of the liquid evaporates and the entire mix is reduced to a mush to a thin paste (it will get thicker once the heat is switched off and the it sits for a while) consistency. This will take a while, keep patience.
Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves if you want. Drizzle lemon juice, sprinkle crushed red pepper and serve topped with chile oil.
Serve sukhi dal warm with rice or bread as a side dish or with crackers, crusty flat bread as mezze .