Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal)

  • Serves

    serves 4


Indian culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey experienced a version of this tarka—a combination of fried spices and aromatics stirred into a soupy dal—while visiting the South Indian city of Hyderabad. It is soured with tamarind and seasoned with curry leaves and mustard seeds. This recipe first appeared in our August/September 2014 special India issue with Madhur Jaffrey's article The Heart of South India.

Find this recipe in our cookbook, SAVEUR: Soups and Stews


  • 1 cup toor dal (yellow pigeon peas), rinsed, soaked 30 minutes, and drained
  • 14 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 14 tsp. red chile powder, such as cayenne
  • 12 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 7 cloves garlic (1 mashed into a paste, 6 peeled)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, peeled and minced
  • 2 small green Thai chiles, or 1 serrano, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil
  • 12 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 14 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 3 chiles de árbol


Step 1

Bring dal and 8 cups water to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium; stir in turmeric and cook until dal is mushy, about 45 minutes.

Step 2

Stir in cilantro, tamarind paste, chile powder, curry leaves, garlic paste, tomatoes, sliced chiles, ginger, and salt; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

Step 3

Heat oil in an 8" skillet over medium-high. Cook cumin and mustard seeds until they pop, 1–2 minutes. Add peeled garlic and the chiles de árbol; cook until garlic is golden, 6–8 minutes, and stir into stew.

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