Chana dal

August 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Indian, Other)

I wanted to make sambar for dinner tonight, but when I went to rinse my toor dal, I discovered that it was full of bugs.  I thought about trying to sub in some other kind of dal, but I only had masoor dal and chana dal, and I wasn’t sure whether sambar would taste right with either type of dal.  Instead, I decided to make a new recipe for dal.  I looked in my Madhur Jaffrey World of the East cookbook, and she had one recipe for chana dal with cucumbers.  But then I looked online and I was won over by the picture of the chana dal on the blog (her photo is shown at right).  The dal just looked so creamy and delicious, plus the author says that she’s “struggled at times to produce an Indian dish that’s rounded and deep in flavour, which this definitely was.”  Sounded perfect! 

This recipe is based on a recipe called “Dal of Bengal Gram” from Camelia Panjabi’s “50 Great Curries of India”.  You can find the recipe using’s search inside this book feature.  Just search for “dal of bengal gram”.  The recipe in the book is a little different than the one posted on the dinnerdiary blog:  it calls for raisins and sugar!  I omitted the raisins and sugar, decreased the oil a tad, and increased the amounts of garlic, ginger, and chilies.  Plus I was out of coriander, so I left off the garnish.  Here’s my version of the recipe.

Chana Dal

  • 500g chana dal (about 2 1/2 cups?)
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 Tbs. oil or ghee
  • 2 Tbs. chopped garlic
  • 1 Tbs. chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced jalapeno
  • 1 tsp. minced red thai chilies
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 pinches of asofoetida
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped coriander


  1. Wash the dal and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and add to a 4-6 quart saucepan with 500ml water, cook for 20 minutes.
  2. Saute the garlic, ginger, chili and bay leaf for two minutes. Add the cumin, chili powder and turmeric and stir well. Add the tomato and continue to stir for a further two minutes.
  3. Add this mixture to the dal and add the asofoetida. Bring to a boil and cook until the grains are soft but retain some shape (about 1 hour). Add the coriander and serve.

My notes:

I tried partially covering the dal while it was cooking, but the foam kept boiling up and I was afraid the dal would boil over.  But the liquid was barely enough to keep the dal covered for 20 minutes.

After 1 hour my dal was still pretty firm.  I added some more water and cooked it for another hour.  At that point it started sticking to the bottom and burning, but the dal still didn’t taste cooked to me!  I figured if it hadn’t softened after 2 hours and 20 minutes then it wasn’t going to soften.  So I added some more water to thin it down, and just ate it a little al dente.  The flavor was great (but a tad too salty), and the dish looked just like it does in the photo above.  Derek liked it a lot as well.  I’ll definitely make this again, but next time I will try cooking the chana for 30-45 minutes before adding the seasoning.  Also, I might peel the tomato.  (I found the little bits of hard, curled-up tomato peel slightly offputting.)

I used butter for my fat, since I didn’t have any ghee and olive oil didn’t seem appropriate.

I think this makes around 13 small (1/2 cup) servings, or around 10 slightly larger (2/3 cup) servings.  The Bob’s Red Mill label for chana masala says that a serving is 1/4 cup dry, or 48 grams.  It says to add 2.5 cups of water for every 1 cup of chana dal, bring to a boil, an simmer for 25-35 minutes!  So why did I cook my dal for over 2 hours?  It says 1 cup of dry beans yields 2.5 cups of cooked beans.  So this recipe probably yielded over 6.5 cups of slightly soupy dal.

Rating: B+

Derek: A-

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