Daal was a staple food for us growing up. Some consider it the poor man’s food. But honestly a hot plate of daal and basmati rice is the definition of comfort food for me.
This daal recipe is a bit different from my basic daal recipe (which is also delicious) and probably even easier to make! All the flavour comes from the tangy masala topping, and a quick garlicy tardka (tempering) on top.
For those that know my mom, and have had the pleasure of eating her cooking, this is her ‘Palla Masala Daal’ or ‘khatedane wali daal’. Named after the tangy palla masala that is sprinkled on top to give this daal its unique tangy flavour.
Tangy Palla Masala for Daal (or Fish)
This seasoning mix is called Palla Masala because traditionally this spice mix is used on a type of fish called Palla. Palla is found in Pakistan (in the Indus river) and is a rather bony white fish, similar to Basa fish in North America (I am not a fan, but my family loves it!).
The secret ingredient in this tangy masala is crushed pomegranate seeds. It adds a lovely sweet tangy flavour to the masala. I make a big batch of this and keep it in the spice cupboard. You can use it to top daal, fish or even on roasted root veggies. The flavour is quite tangy with a mild kick.
We always have a big bottle of this tangy palla masala in our spice cupboard.
Tips for a Perfect Tardka Daal
It is almost impossible for my mom to cook anything without adding a tardka to it. And once you have tried it, I can’t imagine how you can go without it either?!
Tardka is essentially tempering. You heat up some oil with various spices and garlic or other flavours and then pouring the hot flavoured oil all over the dish just before you are serving it. It adds a richness of flavour and gives the final dish a really appetizing smell and look! It works on almost every curry dish. And is especially good on rice or on daal to help brighten up the flavours.
In this tardka daal, the tardka is made with loads of garlic and cumin. It cooks quickly so this is one you need to be watching carefully when you make it. Ideally make it in a small pan that has a pour spout for easy pouring. And careful not to burn the garlic! Take it off the heat as soon as you start to see a touch of brown appearing as garlic can turn bitter very quickly if it gets too brown.
How you serve this daal with a fresh tardka matters too. Make sure to use a wide shallow bowl to maximize the surface area of the daal that will get the tangy masala and the tardka. Spread the hot daal in your bowl in an even layer. Sprinkle generously with a thin layer of the tangy palla masala, and then pour the hot tardka overtop making sure to scape out any yummy garlic bits that might be stuck at the bottom of the pan. Allow it to sizzle for a second to mix the flavours of the tardka with the tangy masala and daal. Yummmm! The fragrance of this dish is so intoxicating!
I hope you try this one. It really is as delicious as it looks!
Mom’s Tangy Masala Tardka Daal
For the Daal
- 1 cup yellow moong daal
- 6 cups water (more as needed)
- 1-2 ginger slices
- pinch turmeric
- 1 tsp salt (more to taste)
For the Tardka
- 3-4 tbsp tangy palla masala (see below for recipe)
- 4 tbsp oil (basic cooking oil works – e.g. canola, avocado etc.)
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 whole dried red chilli
- 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
- 7-8 curry leaves
Make the Daal
- Wash the moong daal well and if you have the time allow it to soak for a few hours. Discard the water before cooking (this helps reduce any gas or discomfort after eating lentils).
- In a large saucepan, mix all the ingredients except salt and bring to a boil.
- Simmer on medium low, stirring occasionally, until the daal is softened and starting to break apart. Add more water if you want a more thin soupy consistency, or allow the water to evaporate for a thicker daal. (I prefer a thicker scoop-able daal for this recipe so I let the water evaporate by about half)
- Add salt to taste and pour into a serving bowl. I recommend something wide and shallow to maximize the amount of masala that will flavour this daal in the end.
Add the Tardka
- Sprinkle the daal with 3-4 tbps of tangy masala. Be generous, you want a nice thin even layer over the daal so you cannot see the daal under it.
- In a separate small saucepan or frying pan (preferably with a pouring spout), heat 4 tbsp oil and add 3 tbsp minced garlic.
- When the garlic starts to bubble and get fragrant, add 2-3 whole red chilli crushing them gently in you fingers before adding them. Add 2 tsp cumin seeds, and 6-7 curry leaves.
- Allow to cook until the garlic is just starting to brown. Immediately remove from heat and pour all over the daal, trying to get the oil all over in an even layer on top of the tangy masala. It will bubble and sputter a bit, but will calm down pretty quickly.
- Make sure to scrape out any garlic bits that might be at the bottom of the pan.
- Serve immediately with basmati rice or just eat it as is, like a stew.
Tangy Palla Masala
- 6 tbsp dried crushed pomegranate seed (anardana)
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder (sufaid zeera)
- 1 tsp coriander powder (dhaniya)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garam masala (see my recipe link below)
- 1/2 tsp chaat masala (optional – but highly recommended)
- Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 6 months (I go longer than this, but the spices may loose a bit of flavour the longer it sits).