Mountain dal

The name of this Bangladeshi classic is tok dal, and it’s become one of our favorite versions of simple dal. Tok means “sour” in Bengali, sour from lime or green tomato or an acidic fruit or, as here, from tamarind. Masur (red dal) is cooked until soft, then tempered with simmered onions, tamarind, and spices. The combination is given a fresh finish with a squeeze of lime juice from the lime wedges that are served alongside. We serve this often as part of a weeknight supper, with plain rice, a stir-fried green, and perhaps a green salad or a fresh chutney.

Serves - 4


  • 1 cup mung dal (see headnote), washed and drained (or masoor) (used 1cup Moong, 1 cup masoor)
  • 5 to 6 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 2 to 3 dried red chiles, stemmed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • One 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick
  • Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
  • 5 or 6 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped


  • Lime wedges
  • About ½ cup coriander sprigs (optional)


  1. In a large heavy saucepan, combine the dal and water and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam for the first few minutes of boiling, then lower the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl. Scoop out about ¼ cup of the water from the pan of dal, add it to the tamarind pulp, and stir well; then set aside for several minutes to soak.
  3. Place a fine sieve or strainer over a small bowl and press the tamarind through the strainer. Discard the pulp; set the tamarind liquid aside.
  4. Partially cover the dal and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until it is completely soft and soupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok or karhai (see Glossary) or a heavy skillet over medium heat. 6.6. Add the coriander, cumin, and cayenne and stir-fry for about 15 seconds, or until a little fragrant, then add the turmeric, garlic and onions and stir-fry until the onions are very soft and tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the reserved tamarind liquid to the dal, then add the onion mixture and stir well. If you want a thinner, soupier texture, add another cup or more of water. Add the salt, and cook for 5 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if you wish.
  7. Serve hot, accompanied by lime wedges and perhaps a small plate of coriander sprigs. 9. Instruct your guests to squeeze on lime juice generously and to sprinkle on the coriander sprigs, if they wish.


Serve with rice, a fresh salad, and a stir-fried vegetable dish.


Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent


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Mountain dal