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  • Writer's picture Payal M.

Mum's Classic Dhal

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Day two hundred and thirty bajillion of shelter-in-place…

Five hundred million hours…

Or at least that’s what it feels like to me now. What day is it again? They all seem to be blurring in one. I think many people are feeling this way. There is a strange sort of certainty about how each day will go for the next couple of months of uncertainty. Anyways, we have been staying inside as per orders and what better way to use up our time than cook and eat. And what better way to hang on to some certainties in life like Mum's Classic Dhal recipe. It is a classic for a reason and has stood the test of time. Making a good pot of dhal is not everyone's cup of tea but if you get it right all the aunties and grandmas will be impressed for sure! There are many ways to make dhal. Obviously, I think mum's recipe is the best. Duh. It is the dish I would always request mum to make whenever I flew back home. It is home in a dish to me.

Onto the recipe. This is "arhar ke dhal" or toor dhal. Basically you have to boil dhal for an hour or so until they are tender and fall apart. The whole mixture will start to thicken due to the disintegration of the dhal. Dhal and water should start mixing. Dhal and water should not be separate. Mum adds half a pot of water which I am estimating to be about 10 cups. The dhal is boiled with turmeric, salt and halfway through the boiling process grated carrots get added.

The boiling dhal tends to create a foam on the top which can be skimmed off with a spoon. You can also help the dhal along by mushing the pieces with a spoon. As the dhal is nearing completion, heat up some ghee in a separate pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, diced onions, minced garlic and sliced chilis if you want. This mixture is called "foran". I have seen recipes from India call this "tadka".

This mixture has be cooked until the onions and garlic are completely brown but not burnt. The dhal should be cooked completely by now. The ghee and onion mix should then be carefully added to the pot of cooked dhal. Some spluttering will occur so be careful about that. Mix well. And there you have it! Mum's Classic dhal soup!

Dhal is best served hot and can be eaten as is. I prefer to eat mine with some rice, sauted spinach and a fresh tomato chutney. This is my most favorite and most requested meal

combination of all time! Hope you enjoy it!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below!


Serves eight

Cook time: Approximately one hour


-1 cup toor dhal

-10 cups water (andaaj se)

-1 tsp turmeric

-salt to taste

-2 Thai chilis sliced lengthwise (optional)

-1 medium carrot grated

-2 tbsp ghee*

-1 tsp cumin seeds

-1/4 onion diced

-1 tbsp minced garlic

-handful of fresh chopped curry leaves (optional)


  1. Wash dhal three times, and add water. Add turmeric, salt, chilis if using. Skim off any foam that forms. Boil on medium heat for about one hour.

  2. Halfway through the boiling process add grated carrots. The whole mixture will start to thicken due to the disintegration of the dhal. Dhal and water should start mixing. Dhal and water should not be separate. Keep boiling.

  3. Once dhal is soft, heat up ghee in a separate pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds when ghee is heated. Add curry leaves and onions. Cook this until onion edges are brown. Add minced garlic. Cook until both onion and garlic are completely brown. Turn off heat.

  4. Add onion and garlic mix to cooked dhal. Turn off heat and cover the dhal.

  5. Serve hot as is or with some plain rice and little tomato chutney.

  6. Enjoy!


*This dish can be made vegan by using some sort of vegetable oil instead of ghee.


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