Black Tarka Dal with Tamarind Sauce and Jhal Muri

dal-with-jhal-muri-and-tamarind-sauceAfter last week’s one ingredient recipe (labneh) today I hit you smack in the chops with this multi-ingredient, multi-step dish. It may look a bit daunting, but really, if you have  made a dal (or even lentil soup) before this is just a slight elaboration. Essentially this is a thick, fragrant dal (which basically just simmers away quietly to itself) topped with some fresh chopped bits, a quickly-made sauce (no chopping, just warming) and an Indian snack mix.

To make it easier, prepare the dal ahead and just warm it through when you want to eat. If pressed for time, skip the sweet-tart sticky sauce and just spritz with lime or use a prepared tamarind chutney. Definitely keep the crunchy stuff.

I don’t know why I am trying to talk you out of the whole shebang because it isn’t difficult, and the result is texture and flavour heaven. I could eat this stuff every day.urad-dal

My inspiration for this slightly mad dish comes from wanting to make a slim-line dal makhani This dal literally translates as ‘buttery lentils’. So far, so not food to glow, especially when said buttery lentils are further titivated with a ladle of double – read heavy – cream. My slimmer version consisted of just a dod of goats butter and a nod of buttermilk. Slimmer, but not nearly as tasty as I would wish. Actually it was pretty lame, serving to somehow dampen down the fragrant spices that are part and parcel of a good dal. A reverse alchemy, if you will.

So, I ‘rescued’ the dull dal after noodling around and finding this description of a Kolkata street food called jhal muri, which seems a lot like bhelpuri to me. I had seen this site mentioned in the Guardian newspaper last year and mentally bookmarked it, wanting to try and find the described  Everybody Lovelove Jhal Muri Express food cart the next time I was in London. Which I didn’t.

everybody lovelove jhal muri express

image from britishstreetfood.co.uk

But my hare-brained idea of spooning a jhal muri-esque mixture atop a creamy dal seemed pretty awesome.  And it is. I have since ditched any pretence of rehabilitating dal makhani, instead bubbling up a healthy mess of black lentils and spices, and leaving well alone. Do add butter and cream if you wish, but give the ascetic and acidic buttermilk a miss. :D

Jhal Muri comes in numerous forms but is essentially a flavour and texture explosion of choice, classically Indian, ingredients all popped into a paper cone. Next time I will add some slices of fresh coconut and green mango to further amp its street food cred. Whilst eating it in my sitting room in deepest darkest Edinburgh, with the fire on. LOL.

What street food do you like? Have you tried doing it your own way at home? Hit or miss? Questions, questions…

dal-with-jhal-muri-and-tamarind-sauceBlack Tarka Dal with Sticky Tamarind and Jhal Muri

Last year: Sweetly Savoury Borscht (vegan)

Two years ago: Very Veggie Black Bean Chilli with Southern Cornbread

Miss R’s Track of the Week: Favorite Place from Black Books – deserves a shedload more views and downloads. YouTube commenter: “If Pink Floyd and Radiohead had a child”

Apologies to my Indian friends for this unauthentic mash up of iconic Indian sub-continent recipes. Feel free to mess with a cottage pie or mac and cheese.

The jhal muri in the title is of course a famed Kolkata street snack. Here I have hijacked its fabulous texture and layered flavours to use atop creamy black dal – probably not, in this guise, a street snack.

Traditionally jhal muri is a kind of spicy puffed rice salad with chopped potatoes, tomatoes, chilli, coconut, sprouted legumes and herbs, plus a crunchy snack mix topping. This delightful street food is served up in a paper cone and drizzled with tamarind sauce and mustard oil. There seems to be no definitive recipe so I hope I can be forgiven publishing mine.

To make this quicker use orange lentils (masoor), although the texture won’t be as rich. Or indeed skip the dal-making and keep it authentic, using chopped leftover boiled potatoes and some cooked chickpeas or lentils. Cone optional.

Serves 4, deliciously.

For the Dal:

* 200g urad dal (small split lentils – black or white{skinless}) or channa dal (yellow split lentils) OR any other similar lentil such as orange (masoor)

* 3 cloves garlic, mashed

* 1 ‘thumb’of ginger – mashed or pureed

600ml water

* 1 tsp salt

Pop all of the ingredients into a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil; turn down to simmer and let bubble gently for between 40 minutes and one hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. The cooking time will depend on the age, type and size of lentils used. Please use your own dal recipe if you like; this one just happens to be my favourite simple one. The orange lentils take as little as 20 minutes and may use less water. You want a creamy, soft, but not super sloppy, texture. You can make this more like a butter dal by adding a couple of hunks of butter and a few tablespoons of cream after cooking.

While the dal is cooking make the Tarka: fry up 4 finely minced cloves of garlic in a little ghee, rapeseed (canola) oil or coconut oil. When the garlic is soft add in 1 tsp each of ground coriander, ground cumin and ground turmeric; ¼ tsp ground cloves, ½ tsp ground fenugreek, ½ tsp asoefoetida powder and ½ tsp ground Kashmiri chilli. The latter three are optional – use if you have them; use a medium-hot chilli powder in place of the Kashmiri if you like or replace all with garam masala. When the dal is cooked, mix in the tarka. The dal can be made ahead and reheated when you want. It is best to use whole spices, toasted and ground but pre-ground is fine.

For the Sticky Tamarind Sauce:

For the following, stir and bring to the boil in a small pan, then set aside (pull out the star anise after cooking).

* 1 ½ tbsp tamarind puree concentrate OR 3 tbsp ‘Western’ tamarind paste (eg, Bart’s)

* 1 tbsp muscovado or dark brown sugar (or jaggery)

* 1/8 tsp ground cardamom

* 1/8 tsp ground cloves

* Whole star anise

5 tbsp water

The Salady Bits: mix together chopped tomatoes, red onion, mint leaves, coriander (cilantro) leaves, pomegranate seeds, fresh ginger, lime juice (especially if you don’t make the tamarind sauce), cucumber, green mango, coconut (I didn’t have any) – all ‘to taste’

Crunchy Jhal Muri Topping:

* ½ cup puffed rice (I used a brown rice one)

* ¼ cup raw peanuts – toast in the oven until they smell ‘nutty’

* ½ cup Indian snack mix such as Bombay, Gujerati or Punjabi, or even Sri Lankan Rani mixture (here in the UK) OR ¼ cup each of chickpea flour noodles (sev) and ¼ cup of roasted lentils

To Assemble: into four bowls ladle a serving of dal, a big spoon of salad, a good swipe of the tamarind sauce and a hefty sprinkle of crunchy jhal muri topping. Dig in!

This makes a fun and quite wholesome, hearty lunch or dinner. Because it looks quite jolly with the ‘cereal’ bits you may even be able to convince young children to give it a try. Or you could make this up more as a salad with lots of chopped potatoes and acceptable vegetables (peas or green beans?) and top with just the crunchy jhal muri. 

Note: If you are just making this for two people, do halve the quantities, or consider making all the dal and keeping the leftovers in the fridge and thinning them with some vegetable stock later in the week for a marvellous soup, or with another batch of jhal muri (sauce optional).dal-with-jhal-muri-and-tamarind-sauce

Other jhal muris, bhel puris and creamy dals:

Sukha Bhel Puri via Dassana

Jhal Muri (puffed rice salad) via Eat Hearty, Stay Healthy

Bhel Puri via Tarla Dalal

Tadka Dal via Chef In You

After giving Mark a break last week, this week I am sending this to him for his Cookin’ W/ Luv Made With Love Mondays showcase of homemade recipes and pretty pictures. I am usually the only person not sending a beautifully crafted cake (couldn’t if I tried!), but I still feel welcome :D6797570797_5f6497bd2e_z

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45 thoughts on “Black Tarka Dal with Tamarind Sauce and Jhal Muri

      • I went to check them out… I am a big fan of tofu and I am really quite intrigued to try out the ‘Tamarind and Shiitake Tofu with Sesame Weed’. I will try this one for me (my entourage has something against tofu) and the prawns seem like a great recipe for a get together with friends. Thanks!

      • The tamarind and shiitake tofu with sesame seaweed got me Freshly Pressed here on WordPress, so I am especially fond of it. I hope you make it. So,so easy. Make a chicken version for the entourage, but bribe them to taste the tofu. I hope they are pleasantly surprised. Let me know if you make it.

      • I am going to try it because it has been a while since I have tasted tamarind and I really like its taste. Indeed, chicken is a good alternative. Thanks for the advice!

      • For anyone reading this, the chicken is referring to substituting for tofu in another tamarind recipe here on food to glow :-) Lentils in *this* recipe are non-negotiable! Whichever you try, I hope you enjoy it

  1. Your food is always incredibly visually interesting as well as amazingly flavoured. It excites Omni’s and vegans alike and every time I save one of your recipes it feels like “I Won!” Who needs the lottery when you can “win” like this every single day? Cheers for the linkies and when Steve wakes up I am going to play him Miss R’s track, he LOVES Pink Floyd…Hates Radiohead. This might just send him over the edge but what a way to start the day eh? :). Cheers, again, for this delicious share perfect for all weather. I love your inventive mind :)

    • If I ever write a cookbook (!) I need to get you to write my dustjacket, or stuff Amazon with reviews! Thanks so very much :D I will have to print your ludicrously complimentary comment, and pin it on my fridge. Knowing that there are people like you, people I have never meet in ‘real’ life, who look forward to reading what I throw out into the blogsphere – well that is incredibly special.

      • Damned RIGHT we do! I love seeing a new post in my RSS Feed reader and know that I am going to get something delicious and inventive on my plate in the near future. As a vegan I often find Omni blogs a bit difficult to navigate but there is never a problem with yours and you manage to transcend the food gap with the grace and ease of a prima donna ballerina in swan lake. Love your recipes, your photos are gorgeous, your links are praise worthy and Miss R’s music is aural heaven. What’s not to like? What’s not to love! And I would be most honoured to write your dust jacket and will keep you to that ;)

      • Lol, tell her she has an “astute ear” and that we far flung antipodeans completely appreciate it…might not be the audience that she is aiming for but hey, sometimes any port in a storm ;)

  2. This is just my kind of dish, not only do I love tarka dal but the idea of a tamarind sauce is perfect as a sharp note . I love the colours which bring the dish to life but also I do find that food that happens to be good for you always is the most visually enticing. So vibrant and full of life!

  3. Lentils are one of my favorite beans and I have to admit, I haven’t experimenting nearly enough with them. I love the idea of working them into more things, but somehow I never get around to it. This sound very tasty and I’m intrigued by the use of puffed brown rice in combination with all the other flavors/textures…

  4. Oh my word this looks amazing, I’m definitely trying this recipe soon, if you get time take a min to check out caramelizedthoughts.com ;) you might find a few middle eastern recipes worth a try!

  5. This looks extraordinarily special. I have tried making tarka dal before but found it too stodgy. The tamarind sauce sounds like a great way to balance it out. Definitely trying this SOON.

  6. Someone retweeted this earlier and I told myself I must read this post! I love it! Dal is such comforting food (akin to congee for me), and I love the touch of tamarind in the sauce. This is great for the cold weather when you want to eat less meat!

  7. thats an unusual combination of black dal with jhal muri and tamarind chutney. left wondering how the combo was tasting. may be i should give a try.

  8. Kellie – This looks delicious and so creative. Love any type of Indian/Dal-inspired dish. Re street food, like Jacqueline I love the sweet and sour components of a veggie Bánh mì rice bowl I had at a food truck earlier this year. So I posted a Vietnamese-inspired brown rice noodle soup inspired by Bánh mì and Pho. It was great, in spite of the accompanying photos. ;)

  9. This just looks beautiful – full of autumnal colours and warmth. Will definately be trying this one with a glass of red wine as the nights draw in.

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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