Daal Fry (and some history)

My mother and grandmother are both amazing cooks. They’re amazing because their food tastes wonderful, they cook by instinct instead of sticking to recipes, and they’re ridiculously efficient. My mother can start from scratch and whip up a full Indian meal, and leave the kitchen clean and tidy in less than an hour. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I’ve seen her do it my whole life. My grandmother is in her late eighties and still (despite her family’s protests) gets up and cooks a little something every day. I can only hope that I’ve gotten some of their culinary skills and that maybe one day, some of their efficiency and tenacity will rub off on me!

Over the last few years, I’ve begun trying my hand in the kitchen from time to time, with pastas, curries, or deserts here and there. I go through phases with food – some months I cook regularly, and some months it seems like I’m a daily Seamless customer. I really want to break the ordering-in habit, though, so I’m going to start trying to plan my weekly meals and food prep schedule. I thought I’d share my successes and failures here. Some will be recipes from my mother, some of my own, and some that I picked up other places and modified. I hope you enjoy, and that maybe it inspires you to get into the kitchen yourself! After all, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a home-cooked meal.

Daal Fry

My mother makes a variety of daals. We grew up having varan and different aamtis (Marathi terms), made with yellow split pigeon peas, moong daal, red masoor, or brown masoor. Each variation is delicious and satisfying at the end of a long day. There have been many times when I’ve come home from a trip and thought that all I really wanted was some varan-bhaat (rice and daal). It’s simple, home-cooked food at it’s best.

One quick and flavorful variation is what Mummy calls a “daal fry”, which you can make with moong daal or red masoor. Here is the recipe:


  • Red masoor [1 cup]
  • Vegetable Oil [2 tbsp]
  • Black mustard seeds (mohri) [1 tsp]
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) [1 tsp]
  • Asafoetida powder (hing) [1/2 tsp]
  • Garlic cloves, smashed [2-3]
  • Small onion, roughly chopped [1]
  • Small tomato, diced [1]
  • Water [1 cup]
  • Salt [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Pepper [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Red chili powder (laal mirch) [1/2 tsp, or to taste]
  • Clarified butter (ghee) [1 tsp, optional]
  • Cilantro, chopped [1/3 cup]


  • Rinse the red masoor 2-3 times and place in a bowl covered with water while you prepare the other ingredients.
    • Roughly chop the onions. Part of what makes this dish so good is biting into the onion, so you don’t want to dice it too finely.
    • Smash the garlic cloves. This is easily done by place the flat part of your knife blade on the clove and pressing down a couple times.
    • Dice the tomato. The tomato isn’t meant to be a main flavor, just add a balance of sweetness to enhance the other ingredients, so you don’t want chunks that are too large.
Ingredients 2

Soaking this daal is optional, but I find I like the consistency better if I do

Ingredients 1

  •  In a pot over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is heated (1-2 min) Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida powder, and garlic cloves. Move it around with your utensil (I like to use a wooden spoon) so that the spices do not burn.
  • Add the onion and stir-fry until translucent. Do not let them brown.

Step 1

  • Add the tomato and fry until fragrant.
Step 2

Add tomatoes

Step 3

Fry until fragrant

  • Drain the daal and add it to the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Keep stirring, so nothing burns.
  • Add the water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the daal is cooked and has reached your desired thickness. (This is a daal that tastes best thick and not too watery.)
  • Add salt, pepper, red chili powder, and ghee to taste.
Ingredients 3

You can find ghee at Indian and Middle Eastern specialty stores, and some supermarkets. 

  • Add cilantro.

Step 4

  • Serve with white Basmati rice.

The finished product! Daal-bhaat = the best comfort food. 

What kinds of daal or lentil recipes do you enjoy? What’s the meal that just reminds you of home? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you try making this! 🙂




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