This dal, typical of those made in northern India, is ricelike in consistency and often served with bread. In southern India, dals tend to be much soupier, and are usually served with rice.
FOR THE DAL:
8 oz. split urad dal (gram beans), rinsed and picked through
1 tbsp. canola oil
3 1/2 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
5 serrano chiles, seeded and julienned
2 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
FOR THE TARKA:
3 tbsp. clarified butter or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 whole dried red chiles
1. Place urad dal in a large bowl. Cover with water and soak for 1–2 hours. Drain, then transfer to a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add oil, 1 1/2 tsp. ginger, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until urad dal is tender, about 30 minutes. (Dal will look like grains of rice.)
2. Add remaining ginger, serrano chiles, and cilantro to dal. Cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and remove from heat.
3. Just before serving, prepare tarka: Heat clarified butter or oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin seeds, and dried chiles and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Transfer dal to 4 small bowls, then season with tarka and serve with bread or rice as a side dish.
Variation—Like most dals, this one can be flavored with different tarkas before serving. For an onion-perfumed dal, cook urad dal as in steps 1 and 2, above. Heat clarified butter as in step 3, and stir in 1 small peeled sliced yellow onion and 1 peeled sliced garlic clove . Cook for 15 minutes, then pour over dal.