Family Favourites: How to Make Sumptuous Sindhi Dal Tadka

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Just as the aroma of the tadka wafts into the air, I see Mrs. Shilpa Lala’s daughter, Nidhi, smile with excitement. Why shouldn’t she be? After all, her mother was making the family favourite Sindhi Dal Tarka, a dish Nidhi has grown-up eating at special family lunches and anniversaries. In fact, she looked forward to this meeting just so she could get her mother to make some of this heavenly lentil dish for us. In a five-part series starting with this, we bring to you the ‘family favourites’ of five diverse families in Mumbai. And this is just the beginning!

“I have been making this dal for 20 years and I have always won over fussy relatives and hungry friends with this dal”, laughs Shilpa, wielding her ladle like a sword in the air. Reminiscing about where it had all begun, Mrs. Lala talks about the time her mother taught her the tricks and trades of a hearty Sindhi meal. “This is one recipe that has been passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me and in all our households, there’s not one member that doesn’t look forward to eating this dish when its made”, she smiles. As the legend of the Lala household has it, the dish is only prepared when each member of the family is at home so they can all savour it and make it a memorable meal.

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“I took an off from college today so I could be home for lunch. I haven’t eaten all day just so I could stuff myself with this dal”, Nidhi says with a glint in her eyes. “Home cooking has always been very simple and tasty at the same time and all the ingredients I’ve used are something which is a fixture in almost every Indian household. I love feeding people and I love seeing the expression on the faces of my family members when they eat this with piping hot rotis”, grins Shilpa. As much as we wanted to know about how this was made, Mrs. Lala grabs a spoonful of the dal and feeds it to us so we could taste it……..and we were speechless. Simple flavours, smooth texture and its sheer effortlessness is what made this dish a winner. If there could have been an award ceremony for gastronomic delights, this lentil dish would have probably won the Oscar and of course, gets our thumbs up!

Recipe for Sindhi Dal Tadka :

Yellow moong dal – 2 cups
Large red onion – 1
Garlic cloves – 4 medium-sized ones
Ghee or oil – 4 tablespoons
Green chilli – 1-2
Cumin seeds – 3 teaspoons
Salt to taste

1 teaspoon each of :
Turmeric powder

Coriander powder
Cumin powder
Red chilli powder
Garam masala
Amchur or dry mango powder

Method –

  1. Soak the lentils in cold water for 15 minutes and cook in a covered saucepan for 10 minutes along with some salt, turmeric powder and a chopped green chilli.
  2. Once cooked, take it off the heat and let it cool down a bit. In the meanwhile, heat ghee or oil in another pan and add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Once that happens, add onions and garlic to the pan and fry them until they turn a shade of light brown.
  3. Simultaneously, sprinkle all the spices over the cooked lentil till it forms a layer on top of the sunshine yellow concoction. Once the onions have browned, spoon it over the lentil and spices along with a bit of the oil it is cooked in. Garnish with a little coriander if needed and serve hot with rotis and pickle.