Ma ki Dal, which literally translates into “mother’s lentils”, is one of my all time favorite dishes. This rich and creamy dal dish is the essence of Punjabi comfort food at its best. I have tasted many variations of this particular dish but my mother’s good friend, Saroj Aunty‘s version always won, hands down. I have done my best to recreate her delicious recipe and the wonderful childhood memories that went along with it. I only hope she doesn’t mind.
Whole urad dal (also known as black gram dal) is the lentil of choice for this particular recipe. The dal must be soaked overnight and slow cooked to allow the flavors to fully mingle and develop. This recipe is just perfect for the slow cooker and also great for entertaining.
MA KI DAL
1 cup of whole urad dal (soaked in enough water to cover, overnight)
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1˝” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
3-4 small green Thai chilies slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
˝ tsp turmeric (haldi)
˝ tsp red chili powder, to taste
˝ tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp tomato paste
˝ cup cream (or yogurt if you prefer)
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or oil
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
Drain the lentils and rinse well. In a medium size soup or stock pot on high heat, add about 3 cups or so of water along with the dal. Stir and bring the mixture to a good boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 1 hour or until the dal is done. The dal should be soft and tender but not mushy. Alternatively you could do this in a pressure cooker or even a slow cooker if you wish, but for this particular recipe - I have provided the traditional stove top method. Set aside until needed.
In a medium size deep skillet (or small wok) on medium high heat, add the ghee. When hot, add the onions. Stir and let the onions cook for 4-5 minutes before adding the ginger, garlic and green chilies. Stir and let cook for a few more minutes. Next add the spices (salt, pepper, turmeric, red chili powder, ground cumin powder and garam masala). Stir well to combine all of the ingredients and let the spices cook. After a few minutes, add the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Let cook for 2-3 minutes and then add the entire onion mixture to the cooked lentils.
Now heat the cooked dal on medium heat, stirring well to combine all of the wonderful flavors. This dish is usually thick and creamy but feel free to add a little water if needed. Let cook on medium low heat for another 10-15 minutes. Then finish the dish with the cream (or yogurt), garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with warm chapatis and fragrant Basmati rice.