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Masoor Dal
Feb 20th, 2005

For Christmas my brother and his girlfriend gave me a collection of Indian and Middle Eastern spices, including a spice so stinky it has to be stored double-bagged inside a glass jar. Asafetida is an essential ingredient in vegetarian Indian cooking, treasured for its onionlike flavor and aroma - after it's cooked that is. Before it's cooked it smells like rotten eggs, or as Nancie McDermott gently puts it "It remains an acquired taste in the West, primarily due to its strong, sulfury smell."

Needless to say, I was excited to use this pungent spice, and since I had some leftover red lentils, this recipe for Masoor Dal (red lentils) seemed like a good choice. The asafetida is optional, so if you don't have any just leave it out.

I don't know if it's the asafetida that does it, but this is really good. The notes in the recipe say that you can whisk and mash the cooked lentils either before or after you add the cooked onion if you would like a smoother texture.

Good with basmati rice or the Olga's flatbread recipe in the archive.


Masoor Dal

1/2 cup raw red lentils (masoor dal)
3 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafetida
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato


Rinse and drain the lentils and combine with the water in a medium saucepan. Stir in the salt, turmeric and cayenne and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Skim off and discard the cloudy white foam that appears on the surface as the lentils begin to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat the oil or butter in a medium frying pan over high heat for about 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and the asafetida and cook for 1 minute, until the seeds begin to sizzle and pop. Add the garlic, ginger, onion and tomato and toss gently for 1 minute, until they shine and begin to wilt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, tossing occasionally. Set aside.

Add the onion mixture to the lentils and continue cooking for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked. Stir well and remove from the heat. Serve hot or warm.

-Nancie McDermott, The Curry Book
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com