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Janet's Chana Dal

Descriptions: "My ex is from India and this is a recipe that his mother used to make; we ate this a lot and I still cook it once in a while," Janet tells me.


  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 2 cups water
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (about 1 rounded tablespoon)
  • 3 shallots or 1/2 onion, diced
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 1 small green chili, with seeds removed and diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 oz chopped spinach (may use frozen)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablepoon salt


  • Clean dal and place in pressure cooker with 2 cups water and 4 cloves garlic. Cover with lid and bring to full pressure. Reduce heat to med-low (just enough to retain pressure) and cook 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow pan to cool gradually. Dal should be fully cooked and soft but still retaining shape.

  • Meanwhile, sauté onions or shallots, garlic and curry leaves in hot oil until onions are brown. Add tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until tomato is fully cooked. If pan is too dry, add 1/4 cup water. Add spinach, cover and cook for a few minutes.

  • Add dal to the onion mixture when ready. Add salt. Add a little water if dal is too dry. Let it simmer about 5-10 minutes. Check for salt and add cilantro. Stir.

  • Serve with rice and ghee.

Use 1 cup green beans instead of spinach.

Without a Pressure Cooker

No pressure cooker? Soak chana dal in 2 cups water overnight (at least four hours) then rince and place in sauce pan with 3 cups water and garlic. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to med-low and cover. Simmer 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent sticking. If dal becomes dry, add 1/2 cup water. Add to onion mixture when ready and simmer about 10 minutes, until flavors blend. Add salt and cilantro.


Please don't confuse curry leaves with curry powder. Curry leaves are fresh green leaves available at Indian groceries and some Asian grocery stores (the same places you buy the chana dal). The leaves are best fresh, but can be frozen. You can find more about curry leaves at:


Contributed by Janet Mayer via email.

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Last modified: October 20, 2005

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