Keralan Dal Curry


“Creamy as well as savoury, this keralan dal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten.”

Kerala Dal Curry by George Alexander
Kerala Dal Curry

Undisputedly a firm favourite amongst most Indians, dal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten. What makes this keralan dal curry unique is its use of ground coconut which adds a richness and depth to the dal. Cheap and easy to prepare, the reward you receive from this dish surmounts the effort you put into it!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried yellow moong dal, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 cups water (for boiling the dal)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 3 dried red chillies
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup water (for coconut paste)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp white urad dal
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • handful coriander leaves, chopped

(* 1 Tsp = 5ml, 1 Tbsp = 15 ml, 1 Cup = 250 ml)


How to make Keralan Dal Curry

1. Rinse the dal several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. 


2. Then drain with a sieve and add the dal to a heavy bottomed pot along with water and turmeric powder. Cover with a lid and allow the dal to simmer over a medium flame for 25-30 minutes, or until the dal has fully cooked and doubled in size.


3. Into a blender, add grated coconut, cumin seeds, dried red chilli, a garlic clove, a shallot and grind into a smooth paste.


4. Then add the blended paste to the cooked dal and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.


5. Heat the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium flame. Then once the oil has warmed, add the mustard seeds and within 10 – 30 seconds the seeds should begin to splutter. Working quickly, add the urad dal and sauté for a further 15 seconds. Then add the sliced shallots and curry leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the shallots take on a caramelised colour. 


6. Finally, pour the tempered ingredients into the dal curry and sprinkle in some flaked sea salt. Stir well and cover with a lid until the dal curry is ready to serve.


Tips for making the best Dal Curry

Soaking the lentils – Lentils do not require soaking, however they can be in order to reduce their cooking time in half. If you decide to do so, soak the washed lentils in warm water for 1 hour prior. They will then only need to be simmered for 15 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes.

Coconut paste – For this recipe I’ve used frozen freshly grated coconut. If you decide to do the same, you must ensure the frozen grated coconut has properly defrosted. Otherwise the oils from the coconut will remain solid and won’t emulsify into the paste, making the paste chunky.

Fresh curry leaves – Ideally you should use fresh curry leaves and depending on where you live, you will be able to source this from most well stocked supermarket or asian stores. However, if you’re unable to get them you can also use dried curry leaves.

Salting the dish – Do not under any circumstance salt your lentils until after they have cooked through. Salting too early will prevent the legumes from reaching their peak tenderness. Stir in some flaked sea salt towards the end and they will still absorb perfectly.


Choosing the right lentils

There are several different varieties of lentils that are used in the preparation of dal. The choice of lentils used vary from region to region in India, and traditional recipes were formed based on their availability. 

The most commonly used lentils in dal recipes are split red or yellow lentils. This variety has a sweet and nutty flavour, and because of their “split” nature they tend to disintegrate when cooked, giving it a beautifully creamy texture. I’ve chosen to use yellow moong dal for this recipe as I grew up eating it this way and I personally love it!


Preparing the lentils

Before you start cooking, check the dry lentils for any unwanted debris by gently moving the lentils around. Once you are satisfied that there are none left, rinse the lentils under cold running water between 2 to 3 times until the water runs clear.


Cooking the lentils

To cook the lentils perfectly, allow the pot to come to a rapid simmer and then reduce the heat to a point where the pot gently bubbles away for 25-30 minutes. For this recipe, you are aiming for a slight firmness to its shape and texture. 

This is because you will still be adding the coconut paste and simmering everything for another 5 minutes. If you’re unsure if it’s cooked, spoon out a morsel and carefully press between your thumb and index finger.


Tempering your Dal Curry 

If you’re not familiar with tempering, it is simply the process of frying key spices or aromatics in oil and pouring them over a curry. This process adds another layer of complexity to the dal curry, imparting a fragrant nutty aroma from the heated coconut oil and mustard seeds as well a sweetness from the caramelised onions. It is a simple way to elevate the flavour of the dal curry.

The trick with tempering is getting the oil hot enough, but not till it’s smoking. So keep your heat at a medium flame, about 350°F/180 °C. This will ensure your spices don’t burn in the oil. 


Ideas for accompanying dishes

Keralan Chicken Curry

Dry Fried Lamb Curry

Potato and Cauliflower Curry (Aloo Gobi)

Fried Cabbage (Cabbage Thoran)

Grilled Chicken Kebabs


What to serve with your Dal Curry

Dal curry sits well alongside other non-vegetarian or vegetarian curries. It can be poured over either naan bread, roti, paratha or good old plain rice. On occasion, I have been known to ladle generous portions of the dal into a bowl, sprinkle over some chopped coriander leaves and enjoy it all on its own!

How to store your Dal Curry

If by some off chance you haven’t demolished all of your dal curry in one sitting, you can store your dal in the fridge and it will keep well for up to 4-5 days. Similarly, if you’re thinking of freezing the curry, then it will keep well for up to 3 months.


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Keralan Dal Curry

Recipe by George AlexanderCourse: DinnerCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy
Yield

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cook time

35

minutes
Calories

109

kcal
Method

Stovetop

Total time

45

minutes

Creamy as well as savoury, this keralan dal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten.

Ingredient

  • boiling the dal
  • 1 cup dried yellow moong dal, rinsed

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

  • 3 cups water

  • coconut paste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 3 dried red chillies

  • 1 garlic clove

  • 1 shallot

  • 1/2 cup water

  • tempering
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds

  • 1 tsp white urad dal

  • 1 shallot, sliced

  • 8-10 curry leaves

  • garnish
  • handful coriander leaves, chopped

Directions

  • Rinse the dal several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. Then drain with a sieve and add the dal to a heavy bottomed pot along with water and turmeric powder. Cover with a lid and allow the dal to simmer over a medium flame for 25-30 minutes, or until the dal has fully cooked and doubled in size.
  • Into a blender, add grated coconut, cumin seeds, dried red chilli, a garlic clove, a shallot and grind into a smooth paste. Then add the blended paste to the cooked dal and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
  • Heat the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium flame. Once the oil has warmed, add the mustard seeds, and within 10 – 30 seconds the seeds should begin to splutter. Working quickly, add the urad dal and sauté for a further 15 seconds. Then add the sliced shallots and curry leaves and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the shallots take on a caramelised colour. 
  • Finally, pour the tempered ingredients into the dal curry and sprinkle in some flaked sea salt. Stir well and cover with a lid until the dal curry is ready to serve.

Nutrition Facts

4 servings per container


Calories109

  • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
  • Total Fat 6.2g 10%
    • Saturated Fat 5g 25%
  • Sodium 1092mg 46%
  • Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
  • Potassium 66mg 2%
  • Total Carbohydrate 10.3g 4%
    • Dietary Fiber 2.3g 10%
    • Sugars 1.1g
  • Protein 3.9g 8%
  • Calcium 22%
  • Iron 2%

* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #_pestleandspice.

If you love this keralan dal curry recipe, why don’t you check out our other vegetarian recipes? Like this spinach and lentil curry recipe.

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