Indian Chana Dal – Sweet and Salty

As some of you may know I am a BIG dal fan. Huge in fact, I love the stuff, and I am always trying to convert the uninitiated. Dal is an Indian lentil soup, or porridge of sorts, that can vary in consistency depending on personal preference. There are so many varieties, using a wide range of lentils, that there is at least one to appeal to every palate. For the most part (some need soaking) they are quick and very easy to make. Once you have bought a few staple ingredients for your pantry, you will find that cooking dal is a very economical meal to cook and, for many in the Indian subcontinent, an essential source of inexpensive protein.

Chana dal, also known as cholar or yellow split lentil, is one of my personal favourites. It is absolutely delicious with delicate sweet undertones coming from the coconut and sultanas. I use desiccated coconut, however in India as coconuts are more readily available, they often use shavings of freshly fried coconut. I eat it for lunch or dinner, although out in India it is even served up for breakfast!

Unlike the red split lentil dal, which I spoke about in an earlier blog, you need to think a little ahead for this dal as the yellow split lentils need to soak for a number of hours. I always soak them over night, but if you check on the packet you will probably find that you can soak them in the morning and they will be ready to cook by the afternoon/evening.

Chana Dal

Serves 4-6

300g of chana dal, soak overnight

1 tbsp of oil

1 tsp panch phoron

3 bay leaves

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder (more if you prefer it hot)

sultanas, handful

1 tsp of ghee/butter (optional)

1 tsp of sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp of desiccated coconut

  1. Before cooking soak the lentils overnight ideally or at least for a few hours.
  2. After soaking, remove the water and refresh with more water. Boil on a low heat, until soft, approx. 20 mins (45mins + if not soaked). You will know they are soft when you are able to squeeze them easily between your fore finger and thumb. If they are still a little hard, leave them to boil for longer.
  3. In a new pan heat a tablespoon of oil on a low heat. Add the panch phoron, bay leaves, turmeric, chilli powder, sultanas, salt and sugar.
  4. Move around the pan for 20 seconds max, so that it does not burn, and add a couple of spoonfuls of chana dal and stir into the pan. Then transfer all of the contents of the pan into the original pan. Add more salt if necessary.
  5. Add the ghee/butter if using. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the top of the dal and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Other additions to this dal is to add fresh green or dried red chillies instead of chilli powder. If you have fresh coconut to hand then thinly slice it into pieces (no more than a handful) and bronze initially in a little ghee, remove and place to one side. Scatter on top at the end instead of the desiccated coconut.

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13 thoughts on “Indian Chana Dal – Sweet and Salty

  1. Pingback: Indian Chana Dal – Sweet and Salty | frankensportblog

    • Hi there and welcome. Chana is similar to tour in texture if you have tried that. In European terms I guess you could say it is similar (but not that same) as yellow split peas. Do try the dal and let me know what you think. Merry Christmas. Torie

  2. Christopher Ratcliffe

    Hi Torie, just tried this. Honestly, found instructions somewhat confusing. Wasn’t sure about the transferring between pans etc or how much water should be left in etc. Just letting you know! Sure it will taste nice…..

    • Hi Chris, So pleased you tried this one. I love it as it has that sweet and salty element to it with the raisins and coconut. Sorry to hear you found the instructions confusing. Basically with most dals you need two pans – one deeper one to cook the lentils in and big enough for them to move around and the other frying pan to cook the tadka/tempering ingredients – these are the spices and sometimes onion, garlic and tomato to THEN add to the dal once it is cooked. As far as the water is concerned you need to have it covering the dal to begin with and then keep adding more so that it is able to soften. As it softens it will soak up the water so keep topping up. It really is down to personal taste on how loose you want the dal. For this dal I like to have it so that it is not as runny as a soup but is loose enough to stir around. When I eat this dal when my in-laws visit we will eat this with our right hand with some rice and scoop it up, so you don’t want it too runny. Hope that helps. I appreciate the feedback. Have a lovely wkend. Best Torie

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