Bengali Dal

Bengali Dal is a staple accompaniment to plain rice along with fried fish or curry served in every traditional household. It is known for it’s souplike, thin consisitency which stems from a a very simple fact that less is more. In rural homes where hard-working villagers are often living on the breadline, their income often reliant on farming crops in the heat of the day and pulling rickshaws by night, the only way the homemaker can make a meal strech across a large family is to prepare a watery, thin dal to serve on a bed of rice. It provided sustenance in its most basic form – carb and protein.

This Dal remians a favoured staple and is served at every dinner table regardless of status. And my familiy is no different. Served along side a vegetable, fried fish or curry it form the perfect Bengali meal.

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 40 mins

Serves: 4


For the Dal

  • 1 cup Masoor Dal (red lentils)
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1″ piece ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1-2 green chillies, split in half lengthwise
  • Handful of chopped spring onion greens (optional)
  • 4 cups water or more as needed

For the Tadka (tempering)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp Bengali five spice mix (panch phoron) OR 1/2 tsp cumin seeds + 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced


  1. Rinse the lentils well in cold water and place in a pan with 3 cups of the water. Bring to boil, removing any scum as it rises to the top.
  2. Add the turmeric, salt, ginger and onions. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until cooked (about 20 mins).
  3. Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand blender.
  4. Return to the heat, add the green chill, spring onion greens (if using) and the another cup of water. Bring to boil and simmer over a medium heat for another 10 – 15 mins or until the desired consistency is reached. For a thinner consistency add more water and simmer again (the more the dal simmers the more flavoursome it will be).
    In the last five minutes of simmering the dal proceed to the next steps.
  5. In a small wok or frying pan heat the oil gently. Add the five spice mix and allow the seeds to change colour.
  6. Add the garlic and cook until it just begins to change colour.
  7. Pour this tadka (tempering) over the rice. Scoop a ladleful of the dal back into the wok or frying pan, swirl it around and pour back into the dal, gently scraping every bit of the tadka into the dal.
  8. Remove the dal from the heat, quickly cover and leave for 5 minutes, allowing the flavours to infuse through the dal.
  9. Stir through to mix and serve.

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