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Yellow Lentil Dal with Fragrant Basmati Rice

More than tandoori chicken or spicy vindaloos, dal defines Indian cooking, often constituting the main daily source of protein, especially for vegetarians. A generic Hindi word for dried legumes—peas, lentils, beans—dal has come to signify a whole universe of dishes simmered with spices and served with chapati bread in the north and rice in the south. Yellow lentils contain protein, the B vitamin folate and soluble fiber, which is good for the heart. Spices play a healthy role, too: In traditional ayurvedic medicine, cumin is valued for its ability to aid digestion, turmeric is prized for its anti-inflammatory and blood-purifying properties, and mustard seeds are believed to heal the bronchial system.

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  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • 1 cup split yellow lentils or toor dal (about 7 ounces)
  • 4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced seeded serrano chile
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 10 fresh curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Fragrant Basmati Rice


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the yellow lentils with 3 cups of the chicken stock, the ginger and turmeric and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Transfer 1 cup of the lentils to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the remaining 1 cup of stock and the zucchini and bring to a simmer. Season with salt, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the zucchini is tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and cook over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and serranos and cook for 1 minute. Add the cumin and curry leaves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir the tomato mixture into the dal and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, season with salt and serve with Fragrant Basmati Rice.

Make Ahead

The dal can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat before serving, stirring in a little water.


One Serving 449 calories, 12 gm total fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 68 gm carb.

Contributed By Published January 2004

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