Daal is such an important part of my life. And more than that, PERFECTING an authentic tasting Indian daal is one of my ultimate life goals. I can’t blabber on enough about how incredible lentils are, they’re so healthy and cheap–one cup of dry lentils goes such a long way.
There’s a restaurant in Whitechapel, London called Tayyabs. It’s a Pakistani grill and also might be one of the busiest, most continuously packed restaurants in the city. Seriously. Every time I go down to London my cousin Val and I go to Tayyabs. Usually we invite a ton of people along with us and the food never ceases to render us all comatose. This past summer I took a mini vacay with Val to just, walk around the city, shop, drink prosecco and eat. We were really excited because THIS TIME we we’re going to visit some DIFFERENT restaurants since I pretty much ONLY GO TO TAYYABS when I’m there. Well my first night there we went to a different Indian restaurant (Val and I really, really love Indian food) and the next night we were planning on something new! Turkish? Vietnamese? The choices are pretty abundant in London…
Well after lunch we started talking about Tayyabs…a lot….specifically their urad daal. Well we kinda got so caught up reminiscing about the urad daal that before we knew it we’d booked a table for later that night. Basically my entire trip down to London was about NOT going to Tayyabs. We went to Tayyabs and didn’t regret it for a second.
There’s something about that urad daal that’s unlike anything I’ve tasted before. Often Val and I will order two lots of it. I’ve been trying really really really hard to replicate it in my own kitchen and, well, this is as close as I’m going to get I think. I told Val it’s probably 82% Tayyabs and that’s good enough for me! I employ a few new daal cooking techniques in this recipe and I’m going to make all my daal’s this way from now on I think. Here’s how to do it:
What you’ll need:
- 1 cup of white urad/urid lentils, soaked in water for at least an hour
- One good sized yellow onion
- One small red onion
- A large thumb of ginger
- 3-4 large cloves or garlic
- Black mustard seeds
- Garam masala (or some ground cumin and coriander)
- Chilli powder
- Some salt and some sugar
- And some fenugreek powder if you can get your hands on it.
What to do:
Start off by boiling the lentils in water. You’ll need them to boil for at least 30 minutes because you want them to be very soft. While the lentils are boiling you’re going to create an incredible puree of garlic and ginger. You can use a blender or food processor. I used my mini blender. Then add the onion and puree that too. You should end up with a smooth oniony gingery garlicky paste that looks like this:
Put the paste aside. Now you want to wait for the lentils to be soft. You’ll know they’re ready when they’re soft, you want to be able to grab a lentil and smush it with your thumb and forefinger. They should look like this.
In a large skillet pan, heat up some butter or oil on medium and sprinkle in some mustard seeds and fenugreek powder. When the seeds start to sputter spoon in the garlic/ginger/onion paste and warm it up in the oil. Sprinkle in some turmeric and then add the cooked lentils and at least a cup of water.
Stir everything well and then add in the rest of your spices and a generous pinch of salt. I like this dish to be quite salty but you might want to wait until the end to assess how much more salt to add. I also sprinkle in a little bit of brown sugar.
Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to let everything simmer.
While the daal is simmering, grab the red onion and slice very thinly. In a small frying pan, heat up a tiny bit of oil and fry the onions on high heat for a few minutes so they get brown and crispy, trying hard to make sure they don’t burn. Immediately remove the onions from the heat and on to some paper towel (they say “kitchen roll” in the UK–weird).
Once all the liquid has absorbed from the daal, taste it (carefully–don’t burn your mouth) and add more salt if you think it needs some. This is more of a “dry” daal in that it’s not swimming in liquid. I added some chopped tomato at the last minute.
Serve in a large serving bowl, covered with crispy onions. Garnish if you like with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime.