Madraasi Khatti Daal – (Sour Lentil Soup a la Madras?)

Rice and Lentils
Rice and Lentils
Khatti Daal & Chaawal
Khatti Daal & Chaawal

IMG_0802 So while I was in college in sunny ‘ol So Cal (sigh, I miss SoCal) away from family, well my sister lived over an hour away so away for most of the week at least, I would often find myself spending weekends or evenings at a friend’s place. My friend Reshma was married and didn’t live too far from my apartment. She is one of the sweetest, soft-spoken people I have ever known. We would often watch Thursday night FRIENDS (yes Friends was STILL on at that time, last season though) followed by The Apprentice (1st season?) at her place after night class, before I took the long road to my sister’s house for the weekend. Anyway so she would often make this kickass khatti daal that I just LOVED. I could eat bowls of this with or without rice. It’s fresh and tangy with just the right amount of sour and spice. This recipe’s credits go solely to Reshma whose one side of the family was from Madras and the other from Hyderabad, India (so you can imagine how good this daal is)…  It’s a family heirloom recipe. I made her cook it in front of me one day and wrote down each step, but I may have played around with it a bit 9 years down the road. And now I can thank her for feeding and entertaining me all those different days 🙂 Thanks Resh, you were a super friend! 🙂 Daal chaawal (rice and daal) is a regular staple in most houses in Pakistan, but this one has a little extra oomph and can make regular daal chaawal days a little more special. This daal is pretty easy if you collect all your ingredients and have them prepped ahead of time. It’s got wonderful spices and aromas from the cumin and curry leaves and the tangy-ness from tamarind pulp. It’s made mostly from ‘andaza‘ as we like doing here in South Asia, but approximate portions are given below. I make the daal with equal proportions of ‘laal masoor’ and ‘toor daal‘ (also known as ‘arhar’ ki daal in Pakistan) for the best taste, but you can also use either or if you are short on either. Toor lentils take longer to soften so you should soak it for 30 minutes. It’s best to make this soupy daal in a pressure cooker because it saves time, but slow cooking is also an option if you prefer. Also once it’s cooked, this daal is blended. I used a Braun hand blender, but you can transfer it to a blender (not piping hot, you will hurt yourself) and then transfer it back to the pot. Hmm… do I have all things covered? I think so… oh and the ‘tarka‘ on this daal is luscious (zeera, garlic, sliced onions, curry patta, and dried red chiles) fried in asli ghee. You can double or half the ratios of all ingredients depending on how many people you’re serving. This will easily serve 10. Try it. Share it. Tell me how it goes. Ingredients: 1 cup daal (1/2 cup lal masoor + 1/2 cup toor) 3-4 cups water 7 clove garlic, chopped 10-12 curry pata (curry leaves) 2 green chili (cut off stem) 1/2 onion, sliced 3-6 medium sized tomatoes, diced 1 tsp haldi/turmeric 1-2 tsp red chili powder/cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it) 1 tsp dhania/coriander powder 1 tsp zeera/cumin (not the powdered kind) Salt to taste (or approximately 2 tsp) Handful of fresh green cilantro, chopped 4 pinches of imli/tamarind or 4 tbsp lemon juice if you don’t have imli Bhagaar/tarka: (this is all ‘andaaza‘ or eyeballing and varies based on personal taste) 4 garlic cloves 1 small onion sliced, or 1/4 of large onion pinch of curry leaves 1/3-1/2 tsp zeera/cumin, whole 2-3 dried long red chiles (optional) 1/8 cup oil or ghee – use a small frying pan Method: 1. In (preferably) a pressure cooker on medium flame, pour in the two types of daal, water, garlic, onions, curry leaves, chili, tomatoes and spice powders. Hold off on the salt. The water should be well above the daal as this is soupy dal. Stir everything together and let cook or turn on the pressure cooker for 15 minutes. 2. Meanwhile take the tamarind, and add hot water to it in a small bowl. The water will loosen it up. If there are seeds, deseed it. You will use the pulpy water to add the tartness. 3. Check back, once the dal is cooked and softened, take it off the flame. Blend the daal. 4. Now you can add the salt. Add in the cilantro and imli juice. Blend it again until it’s like a blended soup and the cilantro has mixed into it. Taste to check the salt, it’s always a good idea to add less salt and chili and then add more in case it doesn’t seem enough. 5. Return the pot to the stove. Add half a cup to a cup more water to get the consistency back. Remember this is not supposed to be a very thick/heavy daal. Cook for about 8-10 minutes longer. Turn off stove. Pour into your serving dish. 6. In a small frying pan, on low heat, heat your oil or ghee, and fry your onions. Once they are a little golden add the garlic, keep stirring and moving around the contents in the pan. After about a minute add the curry leaves, cumin and dried red chiles. Stir it round another minute or so until the onions are crispy, the garlic is golden and the red chiles have changed color. Immediately turn over the tarka/bhagaar on to the daal in the serving dish for a lovely sizzle. Aah, the sights, the sounds, the smell. 7. Serve with white fluffy basmati rice or just use a plain old tablespoon and dig right in. It’s best served hot. This daal will stay well in the fridge for 3 days.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Deenakay says:

    Do you pre soak the daal?

    1. gheeshakar says:

      You don’t need to soak the masoor, the arhar/toor daal you can for a bit but since it all goes in a pressure cooker and is blended it’s not essential.

      1. Deenakay says:

        Lovely! Thank you so much for your prompt reply! Do you pre soak the daal?

  2. Nida says:

    You are amazing! The photos themselves look so appetizing , I can’t wait to try it.

    1. gheeshakar says:

      Thank you so much sweetie! Do let me know how it turns out.

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