Of all the types of dals, split toor dal (also called arhar dal) is the one I cook most often. I don’t always put a tadka with it, sometimes just plain boiled dal with salt and a few drops of lime juice tastes great when the rest of the dishes on my place are spicy.
On other "tadka" days, tomato toor dal is one of my most-loved ways of having toor dal.
In this recipe, I split the preparation of tempering into two steps: the tomato masala and the tadka. This brings out the best in flavours, but if you’re pressed for time you could put all the tadka ingredients in the same sequence to the tomato masala, before adding tomatoes.
- Toor Dal – 1 cup
- Turmeric Powder – a pinch
- Salt – to taste
- Tomatoes – 3 large
- Coriander leaves – 2 tablespoons, chopped
- Red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Curry leaves – 10
- Asafoetida – a pinch
- Green chilies – 2, slit vertically
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Vegetable/peanut Oil – 2 teaspoons
Wash and soak the dals in three cups of water for an hour. Drain. In a pressure cooker, put the drained dal, 2.5 fresh cups of water and turmeric. Close the lid and cook on high flame till the first whistle, then low flame for another two whistles. Allow it to cool and release pressure naturally.
Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.
In a kadhai, heat a teaspoon of oil. When hot, add slit green chilies and curry leaves. Stir till the curry leaves and chilies have turned crisp (about 30 seconds), then add the chopped tomatoes and salt. Cook on medium flame covered, stirring and pressing with the back of a spatula every other minute, till the tomatoes turn mushy (about 10 minutes).
Set the flame to high and mix the boiled toor dal with the cooked tomatoes. Bring to a boil, simmer for a minute while you move on to the next step:
In a tadka ladle, heat a teaspoon of oil. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds to hot oil. When the mustard seeds have popped (this will take barely a few seconds), add asafoetida and switch off the fire. Then add red chili powder to the hot oil and immediately pour the flavored oil over the just-boiled tomato toor dal.
With tadka, timing is of utmost importance. A couple of seconds too less, and the seeds will remain raw, not release their flavour and feel bitter when you bite into them. A couple of seconds too long, and the spices can burn. You might need a few trials to get it right. To play safe, set the heat to the lowest possible while you prepare the tadka.