Indian Comfort Food: Dal & Rice

Every evening, countless homemakers in India pour out a spoonful of ghee (clarified butter) into their pans. The ghee melts into a clear, fragrant  pool. Cumin seeds crackle. Slowly, the air fills up with the irresistible aroma of asafoetida powder. A few quick manipulations later, there is dal: a beautiful shade of yellow, piping hot, and ready to pleasure the palate.

Today, I invite you to share with me the delights of dal-chawal, the dinner millions in India love! It is amazingly simple to make, rich with health benefits, and absolutely delicious.

First things first, the recipe:

Split yellow lentils/pigeon peas/arhar dal, washed: 1 cup
Ghee (clarified butter): 1 teaspoon
Asafoetida powder/hing: a pinch
Cumin seeds/zeera: ˝ tsp
Turmeric powder/haldi: ˝ tsp
Salt to taste
Freshly washed and chopped cilantro leaves to garnish the dal
Lemon juice ( optional)

Boil the dal with salt and turmeric powder in enough water to get a nice, soupy consistency—as thick or thin as you like, as long as the dal is cooked through.

In a small pan, heat the ghee. Add asafoetida powder and cumin seeds. As soon as the cumin seeds begin to sizzle, pour the ghee into the dal.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and if you like, some lemon juice.

This is the simplest, and my most favorite way to make dal. I also like to add paprika flakes to the dal, letting them sizzle just for a few seconds along with the cumin seeds. Some enjoy their dal with ginger and garlic, others lavish it with a sprinkling of curry leaves.

Arhar dal and freshly steamed rice are a match made in culinary heaven.

Now let me tell you about the healing benefits of the ingredients in this recipe:

Split yellow lentils/pigeon peas (called arhar dal in Hindi): a good source of protein, essential fat, fiber and minerals. Balancing to all three humors (doshas), namely vata, pitta and kapha.

Ghee: lubricates connective tissue, promotes flexibility, calms inflammation, stimulates digestion, has been traditionally used as an aid to sharpening brain and memory…the benefits of ghee can actually fill a big book! But best of all, ghee tastes delicious, smells divine, and a little goes a long way.

Asafoetida (Hindi: Hing) this resinous gum has been reputed for centuries as a superb anti-inflammatory,  anti-flatulence, carminative, digestive agent. Has a strong smell, which gives Indian food its typical aroma, but may not be attractive to some. The only way to know is to try it!

Cumin seeds (Hindi: Zeera):  Recent studies are lending power to the ancient ayurvedic belief—cumin seeds are excellent digestion boosters, and can even play a role in fighting cancer.

Turmeric powder (Hindi: Haldi): one of nature’s most powerful healers, turmeric is the bright yellow star of Indian cooking. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.

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Fi T.
Fi T.1 months ago

A break through

Mac C.
mac C.8 months ago

Well, Shubhra, I really loved your Dal soup that you recently wrote about so I will try this as well. Great healthy ingredients and I'm hoping that the local Indian market will have the asafoetida powder. Thank you!

Diane Wayne
Diane Wayne8 months ago

I've never seen (nor looked for) Asofoetida powder. Curious what it tastes like. Guess it must be found at an Indian market.

Linda Jurick
Linda Jurickabout a year ago

Sounds delicious, will try it this week. Thank you.

Halee M.
Halee M.3 years ago

Garlic is a superb substitute for Asafoetida.
Actually, garlic is used in dhal the world over.

Aleksandra K.
Past Member 3 years ago

thanks for sharing!

Kathleen Cazander

Will have to try the recipe. Thanks

Richelle Rausch
Richelle Rausch3 years ago

I make an American kitchen version of this quite often. Especially before donating blood (tons of iron!). Thanks for this recipe.

Sandi C.
Sandi C.3 years ago


Reenie R.
Reenie R.3 years ago

There's no need to use ghee, a little oil will do fine. One of my favorite comfort foods is oatmeal, organic, cooked with whatever I have, raisens, apple sliced, walnuts, sometimes even a few bits of chocolate if I want that. Cook. Add something to the top like a sprinkle of cinnamon, or rice syrup, honey maybe. It seems nourishing and soothing also.