Before anyone calls me on this, I want to make something perfectly clear — I, myself, am not an authentic Bangladeshi but I was taught this recipe by a friend who is.
Monsoor Dahl is an adjustably-spicy South Asian lentil dish that is light, flavourful, and meat-free. It’s delicious as a side to other South Asian dishes but also can be paired with Western main courses — I suggest that you first serve it along with a curry, such as Super Bowl Curry (a recipe I posted previously that can be eaten independently of sporting events), and then figure out after tasting it what other continents’ dishes it would go well with. It also is great to keep in your fridge so you can spoon a little over rice for a quick and nourishing snack.
It’s preparation is not all that difficult but is a bit complicated (compared to the previous recipes I’ve posted) in that you will need two cooking vessels — a pot and a frying pan — and cooking is done in four stages. But even with the two pots and four stages, it’s actually really easy to make and is ready in a little over an hour. A novice in the kitchen could easily pull this recipe off and “wow” his/her dinner guests. If you happen to be a novice cook and you find something about this recipe confusing, please contact me and I’ll do my best to clarify things.
This wonderful dish contains no animal bits. I hesitate to label it as officially vegan or even vegetarian because my younger sister, NeoVegan, claims that all kinds of stuff conventional wisdom would indicate is vegan, like tap water and BBQ chips, is actually processed using animal by-products. What the hell, let’s call it vegan until Orthodox Vegans convince me otherwise.
Warning! Turmeric Alert! This recipe employs turmeric, the yellow spice that gives curry powder its characteristic colour. Turmeric will stain just about everything it comes in contact with from Formica counter tops, to painted walls, to clothing. It can also discolour human skin, so unless you want people to think you have jaundice to get out of a math test or to repel the romantic advances of someone, avoid rubbing it on yourself.
Equipment You’ll Need
A large pot, a large frying pan, a sharp knife, cutting board, a stove… nothing that you don’t already have.
Because this is cooked in four stages, I’ve grouped the ingredients according to the stage you’ll be needing them. I recommend that you prepare the second and fourth stage ingredients while the first stage ingredients are cooking — you’ll save a bit of time that way.
- 1 cup dry red lentils, washed.
- 4 cups water.
- 1½ onions, quartered and thinly sliced.
- 1 tablespoon turmeric.
- 4 or 5 bay leaves.
- 1 tomato, diced.
- 2 Indian chilies, thinly sliced
- ½ onion, quartered and thinly sliced.
- ½ garlic bud, minced.
- 1 teaspoon of cumin, whole seed is best but ground cumin will work just fine if that’s all you’ve got.
- Oil for frying.
- ½ bunch fresh coriander (a.k.a. cilantro) leaves and stalks, chopped.
- salt to taste.
- Stage I: Place all Stage I ingredients into a large pot, stir, and then simmer until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
- Stage II: Fry the onion slices and cumin in a large frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil. When the onion is tender, add the garlic and fry until golden brown.
- Stage III: Transfer as much of the Stage I ingredients into the frying pan as the pan can hold without boiling over. Be warned that when the lentil mixture hits the frying pan it will splash all over the place so prepare yourself for your new yellow polka dot wall motif!
- Simmer in the frying pan for about 5 minutes.
- Stage IV: Transfer everything back into the large pot and salt to taste.
- Add the coriander leaves and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve over Basmati rice.
Bonus Kitchen Tip: If you ever need some hot chilies but only can find peppers with little or no “bite”, use them and add cayenne powder! You get the heat from the cayenne and the pepper taste from the peppers!
That’s it! If you try this recipe, please let me know how things turned out. You can download a print-friendly PDF version of this recipe here. You can find links to other of my recipes and printable “Eat Sheets” here.
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