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Lemon Dal
October 18, 2010, 9:02 pm
Filed under: main dishes, recipes | Tags: , , , ,

I would easily guess there are more than 100 dal recipes in my house, but this lemon dal has recently become the hands-down favorite. Can you believe it? After years of revering the classic onion/garlic/cumin/coriander/turmeric/mustard-seed dal? And my recent crush on a ginger/spinach/chili dal soup? I’m telling you soberly that I’m enjoying this one more. It’s exceptional, and I’m addicted.

I know of numerous “lemon” stews that ask you to squirt in lemon juice before serving, but this one is unique in that you float a lemon-half in the dal for nearly an hour. The slow-steeping softens the lemon, making it fragrant like a gentle lemon perfume, and yet the lemon is somehow also more deep and elemental without being sharp like a preserved lemon. Also consider that the other aromatics are stewed onion slices, cinnamon sticks, ginger and bay leaves. This is completely different from other dals I know of.  A fragrant respite if you’re on cumin-overload.

My household crafts Indian feasts (normally with 3 curries from scratch plus basmati) so often that we decided it made logical sense to commit ourselves to cooking Indian weekly.  We have decided on Mondays (so you might expect more Indian recipes on keitopotato on Mondays).   Even though 100 other dal recipes are good options, I’ll bet this one will make a common appearance at our table.

This recipe was clipped from the LA Times in an article of recipes from the Indian film producer Ismail Merchant.  I have strayed from his original recipe only in omitting the scattering of cilantro at the end.  If you know me, you know that I always skip the cilantro.

I often double the recipe, and eat the leftover lemon dal on rice as breakfast for the next few days (and sometimes lunch as well — I told you I was addicted to this).


Ismail Merchant’s Lemon Lentils (Nimbu Masoor Dal)



6 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 pound masoor dal (orange split lentils) picked over and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped ginger
2 1/2 cups vege broth
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 serrano or japapeno chile, chopped with seeds
2 bay leaves



Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring, until tender. Add the cinnamon sticks, dal, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, 10 minutes.

Add the stock, 2 cups water, red pepper, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Squeeze juice from the lemon halve, straining the seeds. Add the lemon juice and the lemon halve to the lentils. Cook 50 minutes, stirring often. Add up to 1 cup more water, if dal dries out too much.

Heat olive oil in a small pan. Add chopped onion, garlic, chili and bay leaves. Cook, stirring, until onion is browned. Add mixture to lentils and stir. Serve hot.

3 Comments so far
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I am a privledged participant in the Monday evening Indian feasts and therefore can attest to the yummyness of this lemon dal. I like the addition of quotes to your blog. Mom

Comment by Leann Augsburger

[…] Lemon Dal […]

Pingback by “Khatte Chhole” Sour Indian Chickpeas « keito potato

Yummy! I loved the cinnamon and lemon tastes.
I made it with 1/4 tsp McCormick’s Chipotle Chile Pepper spice, and without the chopped chile, as I don’t like things hot/spicy.
The texture turned out similar to hummus (grainy/creamy) and besides eating it hot with basmati rice, I used it as a dip with toasted pita wedges. Thanks!

Comment by L. Black

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