This is the quintessential Bengali side dish. The ultimate comfort food. It’s on every dinner table…from the most affluent of households to the most modest. When you invite someone near and dear to you, you always entice them with the promise of “daal bhat” (rice and lentils).
I hadn’t realized how extensive the ingredient list was for such a simple dish as daal. Mine is a bit heavy on the garlic (’cause let’s face it…the lentils themselves don’t have much flavor). The tomatoes and cilantro add freshness. To add depth of flavor, daal is traditionally made with panch phoron, added right at the end. Panch phoron is a Bengali blend of five different seeds: mustard, nigella, asafoetida, fenugreek, and cumin. It toasts up in the oil with the fried onion at the end to enhance its flavor. The combination of spicy, licoricey and earthy flavors give it a distinctly Bengali flavor.
- 1/2 cup split red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 green (thai) chili
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- half a small yellow onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 pinch pach forom (optional)
- small handful cilantro (about 1/4 cup, optional)