Chana Dal

This is the kind of dish you need when you’re in the mood for something warm and savoury; it’s great on cold winter evenings. There are three stages to this dish. The dal requires a bit of prepping as it needs to be washed, soaked and then cooked in a pressure cooker. Once the dal is ready, it’s cooked with spices and, finally, a vagar (flavoured oil) is added to the dish.

Manju's Cookbook 

100 g/generous ½ cup chana dal (yellow split peas)

1 litre/4 cups just boiled water

¹⁄₈ teaspoon salt

¹⁄₈ teaspoon ground turmeric


120 ml/½ cup sunflower oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 dried red chilli/chili

3–4-cm/1¼–1½-in. long cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

2 cloves

2 bay leaves

¹⁄₈ teaspoon ground turmeric

¹⁄₃ teaspoon asafoetida

1 onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon Ginger and Garlic Paste

2 green chillies/chilis, chopped

120 ml/½ cup canned chopped tomatoes

½ tablespoon Kashmiri chilli/chile powder

½ teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons sunflower oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 red chilli/chili, sliced in half 4–5 curry leaves



Wash the chana dal several times under cold running water until the water runs clear. Place the dal in a bowl, add 500 ml/2 cups just boiled water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain the al and set aside.

Pour 500 ml/2 cups water into a pressure cooker and add the soaked dal, salt and turmeric. Close the lid and place over a high heat. Cook until the pressure cooker whistles twice, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Without opening the lid, lift the whistle to release any pressure and then open the pressure cooker. Check the dal is ready by squeezing a piece of dal in between your finger and thumb; it should crush easily. If the dal is still hard, close the lid and return to a high heat for 1 more whistle.

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Check if the oil is hot enough by placing a few cumin seeds into the pan; if they sizzle, the oil is ready.

Add the cumin seeds, dried red chilli, cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaves and stir quickly a couple of times. Add the turmeric and asafoetida, stir quickly to mix and then add the onion. Stirring occasionally, cook the onion for about 8 minutes, or until it turns a lovely golden-brown colour.

Add the ginger and garlic paste, stir to mix and then add the green chillies. Once the paste starts to turn a light golden colour, add the tomatoes and stir for 2 minutes, crushing any lumps of tomatoes as you stir.

Stir the Kashmiri chilli powder into the mixture. Add the ground coriander, cumin, garam masala and salt and mix well for 2 minutes.

Add the cooked dal to the pan along with the cooking water, raise the heat to high, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3–4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dal to a dish.

At the last minute make the vagar. Clean the pan you were using with paper towels. Heat the oil in the pan over a high heat. Add the mustard seeds and when they start to crackle, add the red chilli and curry leaves. Stir quickly and then immediately pour the vagar over the chana dal.

Serve with Rotli, rice and any other side dishes such as Limbu nu Athanu.

TIP This dal is delicious garnished with micro coriander/cilantro and red amaranth if liked.


This recipe is from Manju's Cookbook. To get more great blog posts like this one - direct to your inbox – be sure to sign up to our mailing list here.