Keralan Dhal Curry

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

Kerala Dhal Curry

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

Ingredients

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

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


How to make Keralan Dhal Curry

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


2. Then drain with a sieve and add the dhal to a heavy bottomed pot along with water and turmeric powder. Cover with a lid and allow the dhal to simmer over a medium flame for 25-30 minutes, or until the dhal 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 dhal 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 dhal 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 dhal curry and sprinkle in some flaked sea salt. Stir well and cover with a lid until the dhal curry is ready to serve.


Tips for making the best Dhal 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 dhal. 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 dhal 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 dhal 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 Dhal 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 dhal 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 dhal 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 Coconut Lamb Curry

Potato and Cauliflower Curry (Aloo Gobi)

Fried Cabbage (Cabbage Thoran)

Chargrilled Indian Chicken Kebabs


What to serve with your Dhal Curry

Dhal 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 dhal into a bowl, sprinkle over some chopped coriander leaves and enjoy it all on its own!

How to store your Dhal Curry

If by some off chance you haven’t demolished all of your dhal curry in one sitting, you can store your dhal 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 Dhal Curry

Keralan Dhal Curry

Creamy as well as savoury, this keralan dhal curry evokes a sense of comfort when eaten.
AuthorGeorge Alexander
PREP TIME10 minutes
COOK TIME35 minutes
TOTAL TIME45 minutes
Servings4 (servings)
CourseMain Course Side Dish
CuisineIndian
KeywordCoconut Lentil Curry Dhal Curry Lentil Curry Recipe
Calories109 kcal

Ingredients

BOILING THE DHAL

  • 1 cup yellow moong dhal (rinsed)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 cups water

COCONUT PASTE

  • 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 3 dried red chillies
  • 1 shallot (large)
  • 1 garlic clove (large)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup water

TEMPERING

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp white urad dhal
  • 1 shallot (sliced thinly)
  • 8-10 curry leaves

FOR SERVING

  • chopped coriander leaves (handful)

Instructions

  • Rinse the dhal several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. Then drain with a sieve and add the dhal to a heavy bottomed pot along with water and turmeric powder. Cover with a lid and allow the dhal to simmer over a medium flame for 25-30 minutes, or until the dhal 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 dhal 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 dhal curry and sprinkle in some flaked sea salt. Stir well and cover with a lid until the dhal curry is ready to serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 109kcal (5%) Carbohydrates: 10.3g (3%) Protein: 3.9g (8%) Fat: 6.2g (10%) Saturated Fat: 5g (31%) Sodium: 1092mg (47%) Potassium: 66mg (2%) Fiber: 2.3g (10%) Sugar: 1.1g (1%) Calcium: 22mg (2%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

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 #pestleandspiceuk.

If you love this keralan dal curry recipe, why don’t you check out our other vegetarian recipes? Like this Vegan Green Lentil & Spinach Curry recipe.

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