Over six years ago when I first introduced the Indian Cooking 101 series of this very blog, I had no idea I was about to start a cult following. What started as a simple desire to help a few of my friends and readers learn the basics of Indian cooking, enabling them to enjoy good food cooked in the comforts of home using fresh, readily available, and healthy ingredients, turned out to be one of THE best decisions I ever made in my writing/blogging career. The series was soon picked up by The Mississauga News as a monthly feature in their food section. Over the years, I’ve received a ton of emails and comments on those posts from folks eager to learn more, much more, about Indian cooking. And it has been a true pleasure for me responding to each and every one of those queries.
I’ve been reading through a lot of feedback from you guys on the kind of content you’d like me to showcase more of on HoH. Let me just say that I have a couple of fun features/ideas that should take off soon that I’m sure you’ll enjoy very much. One of them that makes me giddy with excitement is a spin off from my Indian Cooking 101 series. I know that a lot of you have asked me to bring that back, but I think I can offer you something a step further. Join me, as I cook my way from A to Z of Indian Cooking. Each post in this series will showcase a recipe of a dish that begins with a letter from the alphabet. I’ll try my best to pick a variety of vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan recipes – both restaurant favourites, and simple home cook secrets.
Road trips in India are whole different ball game altogether when compared to those in North America. Driving conditions are worlds apart, and not to mention, traffic rules are seldom followed by the book. But while families in the western part of the world make pit-stops at fast food chains and greasy diners for meals while driving, those in India look forward to long relaxed lunches (also quite greasy, to be fairly honest!) at one of the gazillion road side restaurants called dhabas along the highway. Dhabas are India’s version of the 24/7 diner – food is made fresh to order, the menu is extensive, and you’ll served huge portions of food anytime of day – almost always, with a generous pat of butter on top!
While I’ve not as yet taken as many road trips in India as I would’ve like to, I have had my fair share of dhaba experiences. You see, so popular and charming are these quaint little eateries, that a lot of times people just head out along the main highways to simple enjoy a meal. If you ever find yourself at a dhaba, with no clue on how to get started with your meal, always opt for either the stuffed parathas, dal, or any dry spicy chicken dish they have on offer. If you’re willing to treat yourself to a food celebration and wish to go an extra mile – order all three! Dhabas are well known for these dishes and I’ve never to one who screwed up on any of them.
Dal served at a dhaba is like no other and I believe is a must to experience when in India. Its always perfectly spiced, with just the right amount of heat and tang, and often comes to the table with a thick slick of oil on top. But nonetheless, its THE perfect accompaniment with naans or rotis, to be dunked and slurped. My recipe today is anything but. However, you still get the delicious array of flavours without the added hike to cholesterol levels. So enjoy it, guilt free until the next time you find yourself hungry on the road in India – then of course, you’ll know exactly what to do!
DHABEWALI DAL TADKA (SPICED LENTILS – DHABA STYLE)
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4
Special equipment recommended:
2 tbsp light cooking oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coriander powder
1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, julienned
salt, to taste
2 cups split pea lentils, boiled in a pressure cooker till soft but still making sure each grain still holds its shape
water, as needed
fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish
squeeze of lemon, for garnish
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and sauté cumin seeds, fennel seeds, garlic, green chillies and onions till lightly browned and fragrant. Add in spices, and fry for a few seconds.
Mix in the chopped tomatoes, ginger and salt, and cook for a few minutes to combine well. Add in lentils, and water depending on the consistency you like, and let it simmer on low heat covered for 4-5 minutes. This will allow all the flavours to blend in well.
Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and squeeze of lemon juice, and serve warm.
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