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Chana Dal with Tea Leaves


  • 1 cup chana dal, rinsed
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) tea leaves
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) salt
  • 4 cups (1 L) plus 1 Tbs (15 ml) water
  • 3 Tbs ghee (clarified butter; see below)
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped onions
  • 1 Tbs (15 ml) finely chopped ginger root
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (see below)
  • 1/4 tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 Tbs (15 ml) finely chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaves, Chinese parsley)


Put the chana dal in a bowl and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches (5 cm). Allow to soak at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans and place them in a heavy 3 to 4 quart (3-4 L) saucepan along with the tea leaves, salt, and 4 cups (1 L) of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat and simmer partially covered for 1 hour.

In a separate 3 to 4 quart (3-4 L) saucepan heat the ghee over high heat until a drop of water flicked onto it boils instantly. Add the cumin seeds and stir for 30 seconds, then add the onions and ginger. Lower the heat to moderate and fry the mixture for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and golden brown. Do not allow the onions to burn. Stir in the turmeric, ground cumin and coriander, garam masala, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water, and fry for 1 minute. Then add the chana dal along with their cooking liquid bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot tightly, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the chana dal is tender but still mostly whole.

Ladle the entire contents of the pot into a serving dish, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.


The way to make ghee is to take 1 lb (450 g) unsalted butter and melt it in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Increase the heat and bring the butter to a boil. When the surface is completely covered with foam stir the butter gently and reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Simmer uncovered and undisturbed for 45 minutes, or until the milk solids in the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown and the butter on top is transparent. Strain the butter through a sieve lined with linen or four layers of cheesecloth. If there are any solids in the ghee, no matter how small, strain it again until it is perfectly clear. Pour the ghee into a glass jar and seal tightly. This recipe makes about 1+1/2 cups, and may be kept at room temperature for several months, or almost indefinitely refrigerated. It will congeal if refrigerated, and so must be warmed before using if liquid ghee is called for.

Garam Masala

The way to make garam masala is to take the following ingredients:

  • 5 three-inch (8 cm) pieces of cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) whole cumin seed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) whole black peppercorns
Prepare them as follows:

Combine the whole spices in a heavy skillet over moderate heat and toast for a few minutes, until they are warm and aromatic. Allow to cool, then pulverize in an electric blender or coffee grinder (that you use exclusively for grinding spices) until it forms a fine powder. This recipe makes about 1+1/2 cups (375 ml) and may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several months without losing its flavor.


Based on the e-mail newsletter of dated September 15, 1998.

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Last modified: January 11, 2001

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