Urad dal or mash ki dal is an elegant side that is a perfect complement to a sharp and saucy meat dish. Top it with a simple tadka of fried onions, and serve it with a tangy green chutney, and roti or naan.
I have been wanting to learn a mash ki dal recipe for years. When I began planning my summer content, I realized it was time to finally learn this simple dal that had been a staple in my home in Islamabad. Its flavor and texture pairs well with saucy meat dishes, and completes my Punjabi table in a way that few side dishes can.
Unlike recipes for masoor ki dal or moong dal, mash ki dal is dry. It has a gentle, subtle taste, which makes it a nice complement to dishes that have a sharper flavor profile. The trickiest part of making this dal however, is getting the texture right. While it is dry, it also needs to be tender, and retain just the right amount of moisture.
There are several variations to how each family makes its mash ki dal. My friend, Izzah from Tea for Turmeric incorporates a tomato-onion base in her urad dal recipe here. The recipe I’m sharing is my mother’s where she simply boils the dal in a tight spice blend, and tops it with a tadka of fried onions.
- Urad dal: Urad is black lentils or black gram dal. However, for this recipe, you want to get skinned or split urad dal, which has a gorgeous creamy white color. I recommend rinsing, and soaking it for at least one hour (preferably up to six) prior to preparing it.
- Peppercorns: Whole peppercorns provide this dal with a gentle peppery flavor. If you don’t have whole peppercorns, you can add ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- Dried red chilies: I used a Japanese variety that is more readily available in Manila. But traditionally, you use dandicut (dried round red ones) that are found in most specialty South Asian grocery stories. The long dried red ones available in many Latin American grocery stores also work well.
- Crushed ginger: You can buy this from the store or you can peel and crush a knob of fresh ginger at home. I like to make a small batch using a food processor, and store it in an airtight container with a dash of olive oil to make it last longer.
- Crushed garlic: Again, you can buy this from the store or just peel and crushed 4 cloves using a mortar and pestle or food processor.
- Red chili flakes: The dried red chilies don’t add enough heat so I add a teaspoon to give the dal a bit more kick.
- Salt: Any variety of table salt works, just adjust to taste.
- Yellow or red onion: Either variety of onion for the tadka works well.
- Neutral oil: In this recipe, I used canola oil but vegetable or sunflower oil works too.
How to Make It
Soak the Dal: Rinse the lentils in a few changes of water, and soak them for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours. This helps soften the lentils, and speeds up the cooking process.
Boil the dal with aromatics and spices: Add all ingredients with the exception of the sliced onion and oil to a saucepan, and 2 ½ cups water. Bring to boil, and lower to simmer. Let the dal cook uncovered for 25-30 minutes until the water has mostly boiled out, and the dal is fully cooked but still retains some moisture. If preparing the dal in an Instant Pot, just add 1 cup water, and remember to mix the ingredients well; and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.
Prepare the tadka: In a small frying pan, heat oil, and fry onions until medium golden brown. Pour onions with oil over the daal.
What to Serve It With
As mentioned earlier, I love to serve this dal with mains that are saucier and/or have a sharper profile. I would recommend having it with:
If you want to have the dal by itself, I highly recommend pairing it with one of these fantastic chutneys:
Cilantro and Tomato-based Green Chutney
Urad Dal (Mash Ki Dal) Recipe
- 1 Saucepan or Instant Pot
- 1 Frying pan
- 1 cup urad dal preferably soaked for at least 1 hour
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 12 peppercorns
- 4 dried red chilies
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 ½ teaspoon crushed ginger
- 1 ½ teaspoon crushed garlic
- 4 tablespoon neutral oil canola/sunflower/vegetable
- 1 small yellow or red onion thinly sliced in half rings
- Add all ingredients up until the tadka to a saucepan, and 2 ½ cups water. Bring to boil, and lower to simmer.
- Let the dal cook uncovered for 25-30 minutes until the water has mostly boiled out, and the dal is fully cooked but still retains some moisture. Place in serving bowl.
- Add all ingredients up until the tadka to the Instant Pot, and 1 cup water to the Instant Pot. Mix well. Turn Instant Pot on.
- Close the lid and move the steam valve to sealing. On manual setting, set the cooking time to 4 minutes at high pressure.
- Once the timer is up, move the steam valve to venting position to immediately release steam. After the pressure has released, carefully remove the lid, making sure you are not touching the metallic part. Turn Instant Pot off.
- In a small frying pan, heat oil, and fry onions until medium golden brown. Pour onions with oil over the daal.
- Serve hot with roti or naan.
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