By: Erna Dyanty
Since I’ve come back from Sri Lanka, my diet has been mostly vegetarian. Not so much because I have a political or religious point to make – but just because I enjoy the change of not consuming any meat. With the change in my diet, my grocery shopping routine has also changed in accordance to my lifestyle. This change in my life has been beneficial to my health and most importantly my pocket! Also, I find myself cooking with less oil. This I realised because everything I cook either requires me to use just about 2 tablespoons of oil, boiling or even eating fresh vegetables.
Pongal, the Harvest Festival
One of my favourite places to get fresh vegetables and for very cheap prices is at Brickfields (Kuala Lumpur’s Little India). It has changed a lot since I was in secondary school in the 90’s. The “tourism” attraction decor has been added sometime at the end of last year.
Yesterday was the harvest festival also known as Pongal. The harvest festival happens in mid January, between the 14th to the 17th of each year. Pongal is known to be a big deal in the South of India and celebrated by the Tamil community. Within the Indian community in Malaysia, the Tamils make up the majority. Reason why the colourful pots, large amount of vegetables in large packets on the sidewalks of Brickfields and blasting beast from the speakers are heard and seen when the Pongal festival is celebrated.
Having gone to Brickfields for my groceries for a while, I have made acquaintance with one of the shop owners. I told him about my interest in Indian food and told him how much I enjoy eating this particular type of dhal – the toor dhal and was hoping he could share some tips on how to make it. I was lucky, as his wife was in the store and she happily shared her home recipe.
Toor Dhal Recipe
If you love eating Indian food but are worried about the excessive oils in the fried goods and sugar content in the sweets, I think this toor dhal recipe is a perfect option for you. It does require just a little spoonful of oil, just enough to break out the spices into an aromatic spell and fill up your kitchen, no deep frying, santan (coconut milk) or sugar added to this recipe. It is as simple as counting 1, 2, 3.
For this recipe you need toor dhal, a type of lentils in a shade of pale yellow and no bigger than 1mm in diameter. They look like chick peas cut in half, and you can get them at most Asian stores.
This recipe is light and suitable to eat as a soup, on its own, or poured over warm steamed rice. The recipe serves 2.
1 cup of toor dhal
4 cups of water
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic (sliced)
1 inch of crushed ginger
1 tbsp of mustard seeds
1 tbsp of cumin seeds
2 stems of fresh curry leaves (or substitute with 2 tbsp of dried curry leaves or 1 large bay leaf)|
1 green chilli sliced
1 dried red chilli broken in half
coconut oil or regular cooking oil
How to make Toor Dhal
- Boil the dhal – you’ll know when it’s ready when you pick one up and you can squish it between your fingers and it feels soft. You will need about 1 cup of toor dhal to 4 cups of water, add the onion cut into wedges, sliced garlic and the crushed ginger. Put everything in a pot and leave on the stove to boil. Don’t take your eyes of it while boiling as it will boil over and produce some froth in the beginning of the boiling process. Be sure to just keep an eye on it and scoop out the froth out.
- While it is boiling, prepare about 1 tbsp of mustard seeds, 1 tbsp of cumin seeds, 2 stems of fresh curry leaves, 1 sliced green chilli, 1 dried red chilli broken in half.
- Once the dhal is soft, in a separate small pot, heat up 1tbsp of coconut oil. If you don’t have this, normal oil will do fine. Let the oil smoke up a bit and turn down the heat. Add to this the mustard and cumin seeds, when the mustard seeds start to crackle add in the curry leaves, green and red chilli. Sauté the spices for a few seconds till you get a nice aroma from the spices.
- Pour this mixture into the boiling pot of dhal, add salt to taste. Adjust the salt and water to your liking, if you prefer it thick let it simmer for a few minutes to the consistency you prefer or add water to dilute the dhal.