How To Cook Dhal Curry


Dhal curry, is a soup like dish made from dried split peas or lentils. There were two types of Dahl curry made by Amma, ‘braised Dhal’ with fried onion, cumin and chilli and the second called Wedding Dhal. Wedding Dhal (Dhal with Brinjal) often contained spices like star annaise and cardamom and aubergine.


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 Like all dried legumes she used to first sift through them making sure there were no stones in them. She would soak the Dhal in the morning then carry out her daily household chores and by 10 am the Dhal was boiling on the stove. We usually ate Dhal curry with plain rice or with Breyani. Dhal curry was especially popular when we received pickles from Amma’s sister. Mango pickle, lime pickle or grated carrots were all delicious with Amma’s Dhal curry.
If you find yourself without Dhal then there are several substitutes that you be can used. One of my sisters uses ‘Peas pudding’ i.e.  Soft peas in a can. I sometimes use red or yellow lentils. If you are in Cape Town you may not find yellow Dhal, only green Dhal, perhaps this has changed over the last 10 years. Despite the color, it does taste the same once cooked.

 Dhal Curry Recipe

  • 1 cup dried Dhal (yellow split peas)
  • 1 onion
  • 6 Curry leaves
  • 3 dried chillies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder.
  • salt 
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil

How To Cook Dhal Curry

  1. Sift through the dried Dhal to remove stones or blemished pieces. 
  2. Soak for an hour then boil until the dried Dhal is reduced to a soft soup like consistency. I often use a potatoe masher to achiver the right consistency.
  3. Add turmeric powder while the Dhal boils, this will give the Dhal curry its rich yellow texture.
TIP: Take care not to let the Dhal boil over; keep the heat on moderate to avoid spills. If it does spill over it is best to wipe dry as soon as possible, once the liquid dries up it will be more difficult to clean.
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4. To braise the Dhal, begin by roasting the cumin seeds.
5. Next step, fry the onions until brown, add red chilli, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
6. Keep aside some of this mixture for garnishing the Dhal Curry. Add the rest into the boiled Dhal
7. Mix and allow to ‘boil for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from stove. Top with onion and cumin mix. Serve warm.


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