Soup and Bread

Indian Dal Tadka

IMG_1502From Mark Seconsky

Says Mark: Admittedly, Indian dals aren’t technically soups, but I think the two share a comforting and communal quality and from there inspiration sprung. Every year I challenge myself to learn a new cuisine, and two years ago it was Indian. It coincided with making some new South Asian friends who loved to cook and learn as much as I do, and from that connection a cultural and culinary exchange began. My soup is inspired by Dal Tadka, a luxurious, silky yellow dal that is typically reserved for special occasions. Tadka means to temper spices in ghee before adding to the main dish, giving it an unparalleled spicy richness. While delicious, the traditional method can be cumbersome and messy, not to mention a little indulgent…qualities I like to avoid or at least mitigate when I cook. By frying the spices first in less butter and oil, and adding rice to the soup rather than alongside, I have been able to make this healthier and a one-pot wonder, to boot, hopefully making it perfect for novices and skeptical purists alike.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 large yellow onion, diced small
2 tablespoons garlic, minced or grated
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced or grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced (skin is okay)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups chana dal or split yellow peas, rinsed and drained
1 pinch hing, optional
8 cups water, as hot as your tap water provides
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
Cilantro and lime to garnish

In a Dutch oven or stock pot, warm oil over medium heat. Once hot, add cumin seeds and chili flakes. Cook until seeds sputter, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes.

Add onions and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook about 5 minutes, until they begin to lighten and soften. If the onions begin to brown, lower the heat.

Add ginger, garlic and turmeric, cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Next, stir in tomatoes and the other teaspoon of salt, cooking another 5 minutes until the tomatoes just begin to break down.

Add in the chana dal or split peas and the hing, if you have it, along with the hot tap water.

Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 60-90 minutes, until the dal/peas are soft (if using peas, they take a bit longer than chana dal, hence the wide cook time range). Check and stir every 15 minutes or so to make sure there is enough water and to test consistency, as many conditions can vary the ultimate cook time.

Once the peas/dal are soft, add the garam masala, stirring to combine well, then add in the rice. Bring the dal back to a simmer, return the lid and cook another 15 minutes or until the rice is soft.

Lastly, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter before serving with fresh cilantro and lime.

P.S. This dish is a breeze if you have a counter-top pressure cooker. Follow instructions through #6 and pressure cook on high for 18 minutes. Release the pressure, add in the rice and garam masala, and using the cooker’s simmer feature, continue to cook for 12-15 minutes until rice is tender. Stir in the butter and serve.

Mark Seconsky is an attorney and creator of the recently launched cooking website, Most of his life has been spent looking for his place in the food industry, having worked in catering, restaurants, banquets and hospitality public relations, before realizing his passion was in recipe writing and sharing. When not trying to escape life as a lawyer, he and his husband enjoy exploring Chicago’s inspiring food scene and then walking off the calories exploring the City’s vibrant neighborhoods.

Posted: Friday Feb 3,2017 08:15 PM In Soup Recipes

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