Red Lentils Tarka

  • Active Time 10m
  • Total Time 45m
  • Rating ****

Serves 8

Indians tend to eat protein-rich legumes with many everyday meals. Often these are prepared with just a flavoring, or tarka, of whole cumin seeds, asafetida and whole chilies popped in hot oil or ghee. Mustard seeds and a choice of garlic, curry leaves, onions, even tomatoes may be added to this tarka. I have used red lentils here, partly because they are sold by all health food shops and make the shopping very easy, but mainly because they cook faster than most other traditional dals (split peas). Serve this dish with plain rice and a simple meat or vegetable. Yogurt relishes and pickles make good accompaniments.


  • 1 1/2 cups fresh lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • Generous pinch of ground asafetida
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 to 5 dried, hot red chilies


Pick over the lentils and wash in several changes of water. Drain. Put in a heavy saucepan. Add 5 cups water and the turmeric. Stir and bring to a simmer. (Do not let it boil over.) Cover in such a way as to leave the lid slightly ajar, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Stir a few times during the cooking. Add the salt and mix. Leave covered, on very low heat, as you do the next step.

Put the oil in a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the asafetida; then, a second later, the cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds sizzle for a few seconds. Add the red chilies. As soon as they turn dark red (this takes just a few seconds), lift up the lid of the lentil pan and pour in the contents of the frying pan, oil as well as spices. Cover the saucepan immediately to trap the aromas.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.

RecID 3265

nutrition information per serving

171 calories; 6g total fat; 0mg cholesterol; 368mg sodium; 21g carbohydrates; 11g fiber; 10g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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