Friday, December 3, 2010

Dal: Cheap & Delicious (And Fun to Make!)

Indian food is my favorite cuisine. I've tried numerous times (unsuccessfully) to try to make some of my favorite Indian dishes myself, like bharta (eggplant). Thanks to a recipe from my friends mom and some videos on youtube, I've gotten OK at it... but it still doesn't come close to what I order at the best Indian restaurants. Unfortuantely, our budget doesn't allow for us to go to those restaurants anymore!

Well, thanks to Aarti Paarti, I have learned to make the most fabulous dal (lentils). I learned how to bloom spices, and now, when I make Indian food, Andrew walks into our house and tells me it smells just like a restaurant. Incredible!

The best things about cooking Indian food are that it's mostly vegetarian (huge plus for us), and it's typically very cheap.

Here are two links to Aarti's dal recipe. The first is a video, which is good to watch to learn how to bloom the spices. The second is a link to the printable version of the recipe (which, I realized after posting, also has the video).

The first time I made this recipe, I did it just off of the video and messed up on the soaking of the lentils. I soaked them for three hours! I didn't get any of the scum she talked about, but they also didn't soak up any of the cooking water later. Oops. That time and the next time I made dal, I didn't get the oil hot enough for the spices. I was too nervous to work with such hot oil, but, as a consequence, there wasn't much flavor to it. When I finally got up the courage to work with the hot oil, the flavor and smell of the dal was out of this world.

Because of our high altitude in Colorado, we have to cook our lentils a lot longer than Aarti. We cook ours for two hours! Ours is thicker because of that, so we eat it over rice, whereas Aarti drinks hers as a soup. Finally, we've used the fresh curry that she recommends (it does smell amazing), but we've also used the powdered stuff and bloomed that with the tumeric and hing. I think it's actually more flavorful that way. Don't skip on the hing, though, as it really adds to the dish. Just go to Google and click on their map feature, and then do a search for "Indian grocery near ____" and type in your address. They'll sell hing (and fresh curry), and you'll probably find that the lentils and ginger are cheaper there, too.

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