For Sri Lankans and most of other south Asians, dhal curry is an irreplaceable side dish in their everyday cuisine. Certainly, every Sri Lankan household must be preparing this curry either regularly or fairly often. For your information, these are a variety of beans that are being split into halves. In fact, in Sanskrit ‘Dal (दल्)’ means; split. Remember, these are a great source of protein, carbohydrates and several other nutrients. So, if you a vegetarian that missed this gold mine, start digging this now on. Also, there are several sub varieties of this split bean that are popular among different ethnic entities. Sri Lankans, mostly cook Masoor dhal and Bengal gram dhal for their everyday meals. Both these types of dhal and other kinds can be cooked in the same way with very slight alterations. For example, masoor vs Bengal gram dhal: Masoor dhal can be cooked faster than the other and therefore, you have to either keep Bengal gram dhal soaked in water for few hours prior cooking or add more liquid and cook for a longer period. Anyways, I will give you rest of the recipes with all the specifics soon. The recipe that I am giving today is the one that we can call the common and the authentic Sri Lankan dhal curry recipe. However, there are several other ways that you can make the same curry as well. As I told you before I will definitely give them to you in the near future.
- 1 – 1 ¼ cups of dhal – repeatedly, washed and rinsed until clean or the water-over clears.
- 1 ½ cups of thicker coconut milk
- Remember, in Sri Lankan cookery, thick coconut milk means not the consistency of condensed coconut milk that you find in cans. Traditionally and usually, Sri Lankans scrape the coconuts and add water as needed and, repeatedly, squeeze off the milk. We call the first batch or its similar consistency “Miti kiri” meaning thick coconut milk. So, if you are using condensed coconut milk, add water at 1:1 ration and dilute it.
- 2 -3 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
- ¼ of a medium sized onion (Finely sliced)
- ½ tsp of finely chopped ginger
- ½ tsp of tamarind paste)
- ½ tsp of turmeric powder
- ½ – ¾ tsp of dried black mustard seeds (Aba ata)
- ½ tsp of finely ground red chili powder
If you are not fan of hotter dishes or your toddler will be tasting this, reduce the amount as you need.
- 1 tsp of dried red chili flakes
- If you are not fan of hotter dishes or your toddler will be tasting this, reduce the amount as you need.
- 2 -3 whole dried red chilies (optional)
- Few whole seeds of dried black pepper
- Some curry leaves (Karapincha)
- 2 small pieces of pandal leaves (Rampe)
- 3 seeds of cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 2 – 3 tbsp of cooking oil
- Salt to taste and as necessary
- Water as necessary
In a cooking pot, combine dhal, turmeric, chili powder, salt (start with ½ a tsp), tamarind and pandan leaves. Then, add water 3 – 3 ½ cups of water and boil for around 8 – 10 minutes. Always make sure that they are almost fully cooked before the next action. Personally, I suggest to I take several dhal pieces out onto a plate and when they cool down, taste and see. For your tongue, they should be tender and not too soft either. Also, if you feel like you need more water to reach the intended texture, don’t be hesitated to bring little bit of water in. Now, once this step is proceeded, add the coconut milk and start to simmer under low-to-medium heat level. Meantime, in a separate cooking pot (preferably in a sauce pan with an extended handle), stir fry rest of the ingredients accordingly. First, start frying the onions under medium-to-high heat until they turn slightly brown. Then, give garlic a chance and stir fry both until they become light golden. Now, lower the heat and bring in curry leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and mustard seeds and stir fry for about 30 seconds. After, bring heat to the lowest level and add chili flakes and whole chilies (optional). Now, continuously, stir fry all for about 10 seconds and carefully drop all that’s been fried into the dhal curry and continue to simmer. Remember, normally, this is done other way around. That is, you pour in the dhal portion to the frying ingredients. Anyways, if you will do like this you don’t have to use two larger cooking pots, instead you can do the frying part in a smaller one. Well it’s really up to you to decide what is more convenient and trust me, they both give the same results. Ok, as by now the dhal is well cooked, you can serve it even soon as you mix the fried ingredients. Remember, you can always adjust the consistency of the gravy as you require. If you are planning to accompany this with either bread, string hoppers or as such, I suggest to make it a thinner gravy. You can do this either by adding little more thinner coconut milk at first or simmering for lesser time period. Vice versa, if you want a thinker gravy, simmer it more and/or use slightly thicker coconut milk. Ha, remember to adjust salt for your taste.