Punjabi Black Dal


Black gram or sabut kali urad dal in Hindi, is Tara’s favourite type of lentils.

Because if you’re Indian, you’re aware that there are many different types of lentils and you’ve most likely tried every type by the time you’re 6 years old. And by then, you’ve figured out you have a favourite. In fact, not only had we tried all the different types, lentils were a real staple for us and we ate them several times a week, with or without rice. We used to have them so often that we used to beg our mother to gives us break and to please please please let us have “English” food – which normally involved baked beans or thick slabs of melted cheese on toast. Yummy, but not very time consuming and only okay health-wise. Now, we’re so glad we were fed dals (Indian lentils), because they’re super nutritious and full of protein and fibre. Mama knows best!

Now, the thing about cooking black dal is that it takes a little more time than usual because it involves soaking them overnight and then cooking them in a pressure cooker for some time. But luckily you don’t have to hang around during that part, which makes this a relatively low-maintenance recipe. We’ve used a recipe that is from a cookbook by the External Affairs Ministry’s Spouses Association (a society formed by the partners of Indian diplomats), because it’s a solid recipe using pantry staples and we know the recipes have been tested over and over again, both at home and (probably) at fancy parties!


Makes roughly 6 servings
Slightly adapted from Fabulous Flavours: Vegetarian by the External Affairs Ministry’s Spouses Association, New Delhi (2006)

1.5 cup whole black gram
6 cups water
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
a pinch of ground red chillies
2 tbsp ghee or oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala

  1. Soak the black gram overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours.
  2. Place the black gram in a pressure cooker with the water, 1 tsp of salt, garlic, ginger and ground red chillies. After the first whistle, reduce the heat to the lowest temperature and cook for a further 45 minutes. (GREAT time to get your laundry done, do the dishes or catch up on The New Normal)
  3. After 45 minutes, turn the heat off and leave to one side. Be careful not to remove the pressure cooker lid until you’re certain no more steam will be let through. (We like to test this by nudging the cooker weight upwards to see if any more steam escapes)
  4. Heat the ghee/oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onions until golden.
  5. Add the tomatoes, garlic paste, paprika, coriander powder and garam masala. Cook on a low heat until the oil and sauce separates – about 15 minutes.
  6. Add the mixture to the cooled dal. Then heat the dal (to a simmer) for 10 minutes, stirring once in a while.
  7. Serve immediately or, if you can, wait for a day (store in the fridge) before eating. As we say in our family, dal is always best on the second day!

So what do you think? Feel free to share your questions and comments below! We’d love to hear what you have to say.


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