Chana dal

I made a particularly good chana dal the other day. As requested by James, here’s the recipe.

Chana dal on rice

Serves 4 to 5 as a main course.

400g chana dal (dried)
1 large onion (or equivalent), finely chopped
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
3 cm ginger root, peeled and roughly sliced
1 tsp turmeric powder
4 cloves
2 black cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 tsp salt (approx.; to taste)
1 tsp chilli sauce
4 tsp gram flour
½ tsp garam masala

You’ll also need oil (I use groundnut oil) and water, and a deep pan with a lid.

The chilli sauce mentioned is my own, made by blending together about ten scotch bonnet peppers, a clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of salt, and white wine vinegar. It keeps well in the fridge—better than raw chillies, anyway.

Wash the dal and soak for several hours. Rinse again and drain.

Heat enough oil to cover the base of pan, and add cumin and fennel seeds. Stir for a few seconds, then add onions and garlic. Fry until the onion is soft, then set aside in a bowl for later.

Put dal, ginger slices, turmeric, cloves, cardamom, and star anise in pan with enough water to cover with a cm or so to spare. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer until dal is soft. Add extra water as required. Add salt near the end.

Remove the whole spices (I find chopsticks helpful).

Mix gram flour with a little water, and whisk until smooth. Add to dal mixture, stir, and cook for a few minutes.

Add the onion mixture (set aside earlier) to the dal, and stir in. At this point, you may need to add a little water to get the constituency you want.

Add chilli sauce, garam masala, and any additional salt to taste. Grind some pepper over the final dish.


  1. Rieethaa

    Wrote at 2012-08-16 14:45 UTC using Chrome 21.0.1180.75 on Mac OS X:

    Guess it’s your take on a conventional chana dal fry although not sure if you were trying to make a chana dal tadka or chana dal curry here. Also, did the recipe ask for adding the gram flour? Never used that in a Chana dal fry myself. I am sure you enjoyed it. Good effort.
  2. Paul Battley

    Wrote at 2012-08-16 15:43 UTC using Chrome 21.0.1180.75 on Linux:

    Oh, I’m not really sure what I’m trying to make either! Just something I like eating, really. The photo is a reheated portion, so it’s a bit thicker than it was the first day.

    In fact, this isn’t any particular recipe, just the combination of ingredients that I happened to use from memory the other day. I’ve found that adding a bit of gram flour and water gives a nice consistency to the result, particularly if I’m eating it with rice.
  3. Rieethaa

    Wrote at 2012-08-16 21:02 UTC using Chrome 21.0.1180.75 on Mac OS X:

    Glad that you atleast tried making a different version of it than usual and must appreciate your enthusiasm for it.

    Gram flour is itself made out of Chana Dal so it tends to thicken without the gram flour anyway. The way we typically do it is make it slightly runny so once it has boiled nicely the Chana tends to get mushy (just ever so slightly mushy) which ends up giving the kind of consistency you’re after. I might share the recipe once my website is fully done up. Thanks for sharing it.
  4. Paul Battley

    Wrote at 2012-09-05 22:12 UTC using Chrome 21.0.1180.89 on Linux:

    Rieethaa, I tried adding more water and cooking it a bit longer this time, just as you suggest, and it came out perfect.