Moong dal is the ultimate Northern Indian comfort dish and was my favorite Indian dish growing up in a Sikh household. It is yellow lentils cooked for an extended time with aromatic spices, onions, garlic, and ginger over low heat in clarified butter.
The result is a soft buttery soupy stewed lentil dish that will melt your heart. Add other types of lentils to this dish to balance the flavors and ensure the right consistency. For our recipe, we add red lentils (or masoor) as well.
Our post provides all the fundamentals of making Northern Indian dals, including mastering the base or the “tadka.” Serve it alongside naan bread, roti, or jeera rice!
What is Tadka?
Tadka (also known as “tarka”) is the technique of blooming spices in hot ghee or clarified butter to catalyze the release of their natural oils. Blooming imparts intense fragrance and robust flavor to the oil. Tadka may also refer to the base of a curry dish, which is generally composed of onions, garlic, ginger, spices, and hot ghee or clarified butter cooked on low heat for an extended time to bloom the spices and draw out those flavors.
We use the latter technique for this recipe, which serves as the base for our dal. To learn more about tadka, visit our post “How to Make Tadka – the Base of Northern Indian Curries.”
Storage of Spices
The shelf-life of whole spices is up to 4 years, whereas the shelf-life for ground spices is up to 3 years. Be sure to verify that your spices are not expired. When storing your spices, store them in airtight containers in a cool dark place. This step will ensure that the spices stay fresh for the maximum time.
How to Clarify the Butter
To clarify the butter, place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. As it begins to bubble, a white foam will appear. This white foam is the lactose or milk solids in the butter. Use a large serving spoon to remove the white foam from the butter by skimming it from the top.
We clarify the butter to increase its smoke point. The presence of lactose or milk solids in the butter will cause it to burn more quickly. Increasing the butter’s smoke point will assist in blooming the spices and cooking down the onions, garlic, and ginger, without burning them. Although you may not remove all of the lactose or milk solids from the melted butter, removing some of them will impact the butter’s smoke point.
Be Careful Not to Burn the Spices
Cook the tadka on the stovetop at medium-low heat. The cooking temperature should remain medium-low to low throughout the cooking process. Keep in mind; you will be cooking the ingredients for 30-40 minutes. Allow the spices to sizzle but not burn.
Note that the onions and spices may stick slightly to the pot or pan. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking, but this result is expected.
How Do You Know When the Tadka is Done?
The tadka is ready when it becomes a soft succulent brown paste of caramelized onions and peppers with a sweet smell of ginger and cumin to the nose.
How to Adjust the Spice Level
We advise that you use one green chili pepper. However, this will create a soft and mild heat. If you prefer spicy curry dishes that will make you sweat, we sympathize! In this case, add one to two additional green chili peppers to add an extra kick.
How Do You Know When the Dal is Done
The lentils will become soft and split apart, developing a thick soupy consistency. You may add water throughout the cooking process if the lentils thicken too quickly during the 3-hour period.
How to Eat It
Reheating and Storage
Store the dal in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Consume it for up to 6 days. Alternatively, you may freeze it and consume it for up to three months.
To reheat the refrigerated dal, place it in a saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat for 5 minutes or until warm throughout. To reheat frozen dal, place it in a saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat for 10 minutes or until warm throughout.
In both cases, add 1/4 cup of water to bring the consistency back to its original state.
Visit your local liquor store and request a bottle featuring these characteristics to find the perfect pair.
- Color: white
- Notes: citrus, apricot, beeswax, jasmine, and petrol
- Geography: old world
- Structure: dry, low to medium body, high acidity
Purge Your Fridge
You just finished devouring our moong dal and you are left with the following ingredients:
- 3/4 Red Bell Pepper
- 3/4 Green Bell Pepper
Enjoy these ingredients in a dinner salad or a breakfast frittata!
Moong (Yellow-Lentil) Dal
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1/4 red bell pepper diced
- 1/4 green bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 thumb ginger 3 thumbs thick, peeled and grated
- 1 green chili pepper add 1-2 extra chilies for a spicier version
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/8 tsp red chili powder
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds heaping
- 1/8 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/8 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/16 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/16 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 green cardamom pod
- 1/2 bay leaf
- 3 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 cup red lentils Masoor
- 1 cup yellow lentils Moong
- 6 cups cold water
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped
Soak the Lentils Overnight
- Pour red and yellow lentils into a mixing bowl and cover them with cold water.
- Soak the lentils overnight.
- The next day, drain the water from the soaked lentils and rinse the lentils three times with cold water until the water runs clear.
Cut the Vegetables
- Dice the onions, red pepper, and green pepper. Set aside.
- Mince garlic and sliced green chili peppers. Set aside.
- Peel and grate the ginger. Set aside.
- Finely chopped cilantro. Set aside.
Toast and Grind Garam Masala
- Break open cardamom pods, discard the shells, and set aside the seeds.
- Place a dry saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat.
- Add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, cardamom seeds, black peppercorns, and cloves to a dry saucepan.
- Dry sauté the spices for 1 minute to toast them.
- Add whole and ground spices to a coffee grinder and grind them into a powder. Set aside.
Clarify the Butter
- Place a pot on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add butter and allow it to melt.
- Turn the stovetop down to low heat if it begins to bubble.
- To clarify the butter, skim the white foam off the top of the pot with a large serving spoon to remove the lactose or milk solids.
Begin Cooking up the Tadka
- Add onions, red pepper, and green pepper to the pot. Increase the heat on the stovetop to medium-low and allow the vegetables to bubble softly.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pot or burn.
- Add ginger and garlic.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Bloom the Spices and Finish the Tadka
- Add green chili peppers, red chili powder, garam masala, cumin seeds, and salt.
- Cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Cover the pot with its lid and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Add the Lentils to the Tadka and Cook for 3 hours
- Add turmeric powder, rinsed lentils, cold water, and additional salt. Increase the heat on the stovetop to medium-high and bring it to a boil.
- When the lentils begin to boil, cover the pot with its lid.
- Reduce the heat on the stovetop to low. Stir occasionally to ensure the lentils don't stick.
- Cook for 3 hours. After 1.5 hours, add chopped cilantro.
Finish with Butter
- Stir in butter before plating to finish the dal. Alternatively, you can bloom some cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, and red chili pepper (for some extra spice) in a saucepan in mustard seed oil for one minute and drizzle it on top.
- Garnish with more chopped cilantro.
- Serve and enjoy.