First, an apology to Goan food lovers because this dal is not authentic, but is patterned after a Goan one called “ros chana” or dried green or white pea (vatana) curry. I have swapped in toor dal instead, though if you are partial to vatana, remember that those peas need an 8-hour soak and will take longer to cook. I have made this recipe with both dried peas and yellow pigeon peas (toor dal) and have come down on the pigeon peas’ side. I often am not planning far enough ahead to get the dried white or green peas soaked properly. Also, I find that yellow pigeon peas (toor dal) are easier to find, and I ultimately prefer their texture.
Peas: yellow, white, or green?
Dried pea curries are especially popular in South India. And this curry is made in the Western coastal state of Goa, especially during religious holidays when meat and fish are avoided. Goan dal will freshen up your lentil soup routine. Enriched with coconut, warmed with a few toasted, ground spices, and brightened with tamarind, this Goan dal is healthy and comforting all at once. If you want an even heartier soup, add chopped carrots, potatoes, or any favorite vegetable. Here is a photo of this gravy with dried green peas:
Ways to cook
I have included instructions on cooking the lentils either in an Instant Pot, on the stovetop, or in an Indian pressure cooker. It is a simple matter to cook the whole recipe in the Instant Pot. After toasting the spices and coconut and grinding them to a powder, turn the Instant Pot to sauté and begin the soup instructions. Instead of adding the cooked dal, you will add it uncooked along with 3 cups of water. Follow the instructions for cooking the lentils in the Instant Pot.
A new twist on an old favorite
A delicious lentil soup, comforting Goan dal is protein-rich, vegetarian, and low on the glycemic scale. A perfect warming bowl of sunshine to make a meal of with your favorite bread or rice. While I’ve mentioned two dried peas as the foundation for this recipe, chickpeas (chana) or even red lentils (masoor dal) will work too. The final texture and flavors will differ slightly, but this is where I encourage you to have fun and play with your food. I would love to hear what you come up with.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Comforting Goan Dal
Lentil Cooking Ingredients
- 1 cup yellow pigeon peas (toor dal) ~ See Notes below for other legumes
- 3 cups water ~ For the Instant Pot, 4 cups if cooking on the stovetop
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Double if using Diamond Crystal salt, substitutions
- 1 teaspoon oil ~ Only if using the Instant Pot, more for soup
Toast the spices and coconut
- 1/2 to 2 whole dried Kashmiri red chili ~ More or less to taste, see Notes below
- 2 pinches cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds ~ Or anise seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 4 black peppercorns
- 2 cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup fresh grated coconut ~ Or from frozen, or 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds ~ Brown or yellow work too
- 10 curry leaves ~ Optional, if your leaves are longer than an inch, halve the amount
- 1/2 cup onion ~ Finely chopped, or 1/4 tsp asafetica (hing)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea or table salt ~ Or to your taste
- 1 teaspoon tamarind ~ Or equal amount lemon or lime juice, see Notes below
- 2 tablespoons cilantro ~ Chopped, for garnish, optional
COOK THE LENTILS
Lentils in the Instant Pot
- Rinse the lentils well and add them to the Instant Pot along with the turmeric, salt, oil, and water. Close the pressure valve and turn the settings to High Pressure for 7 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then release the rest of the pressure.
Lentils on the stovetop
- Add the rinsed lentils, 4 to 5 cups of water, turmeric, and salt to a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and cook uncovered until the dal is soft. This will take between 30 to 4 minutes. Depending on how thick you want your soup, you may want to start with 4 cups, then add water if needed. Stir every 10 minutes.
Lentils in an Indian pressure cooker
- In a pressure cooker add the rinsed dal, 3 1/2 cups water, salt, and turmeric. Cook over medium-high heat. When the pressure cooker begin to steam, lower the heat to medium and cook for 7 minutes.
TOAST THE SPICES AND COCONUT
- While the lentils are cooking, add all the spices (but not the coconut) to a pan over medium heat. Toast stirring frequently for 2 to 3 minutes until the cumin seeds have turned a shade darker and the spices are aromatic. Allow to cool. Grind into a powder in a spice or coffee grinder.
- In the same pan toast the coconut over medium heat so that it becomes golden brown. Allow the coconut to cool and then grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Don't be concerned if it gets a bit clumpy due to the oil content of the coconut; that will blend into the dal.
MAKE THE SOUP (MASALA)
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to crackle, stir in the curry leaves if using, onion or asafetida, and salt to taste. I use 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir frequently for 4 to 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.
- Add in the ground spices, coconut, tamarind or lemon, and cooked toor dal along with half of the cooking liquid. Reserve the rest to dilute the dal. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add more dal cooking liquid as needed to give you the desired consistency. If you need more liquid stir in water.
- Taste for salt, acid (a bit of lemon or lime juice), and heat (some ground red chili powder or black pepper). Once you have perfected YOUR Goan dal recipe double it and freeze half for a rainy day. Otherwise, it keeps well for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- Lentils: feel free to play with the lentils of your choice for Goan dal. Red lentils (masoor dal) will cook more quickly and give you a smoother dal. Chickpeas (chana dal) will take longer to cook and retain their shape much better.
- Vatana: If you want to use dried white or green peas, soak 1/2 cup for 8 hours. Cook in the Instant Pot on High Pressure for 15 minutes, then natural release for 10 minutes. Stovetop cooking will take 40 minutes to an hour using 2 cups of water; check the water level at the 20-minute mark. And for an Indian pressure cooker, add 1 cup of water. Cook for 4 to 5 whistles or until the peas are soft.
- Chilies: I find that 1/2 a Kashmiri red chili with the seeds removed gives me just a bit of heat. Feel free to use a hotter dried chili and/or more chilies if you are looking for heat.
- Tamarind: Use either tamarind from a block of paste or from tamarind concentrate. A good quality concentrate is one from Pure Indian Foods or Tamicon’s Tamarind paste.