Spending our time untethering the mind, getting the fidgets out, exploring the in-between ideas, and learning kintsugi.

One thousand and one nights: Lentil soup recipe

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Chana daal

Chana daal

Why 1001 nights? I reckon there are at least that many lentil soup recipes. I am adding mine to the mix.

Why is this special? Aside from the fact that I am not an impartial judge, this one has a variety of textures and flavors that are noticeably distinct but combine to form a wonderfully aromatic and light soup.

Key ingredients? Fresh pickled ginger, finely chopped pickled lime, slow roasted garlic, …

Basic prep (Serves 4):

  • 1 cup chana lentil, picked and soaked in 3-4 cups of cold water for 4-8 hours
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

Rinse the lentil until water runs clear. Add salt and turmeric and cook the lentil on medium-low heat in 3 cups of water until soft but the lentil kernels retains their form. Skim off the foam that rises to the top during cooking, much like what you would do during making of stock. Churn the soup (daal) gently with a large whisk if you don’t have the traditional equipment. This makes the daal thick as the soft lentil kernels break down. You can keep this away in the refrigerator for upto 48 hours.


  1. Water evaporates quickly and lentil is not soft. Add hot water in batches of 1/4 cup if necessary. To reduce evaporation, cover the container and reduce heat to low.
  2. After churning, the daal is not as soft as you like. Cover and cook for additional 5-10 min. Add 1/4 cup or more of hot water if necessary.
  3. The lentil is soft but there is excess water. This doesn’t happen if following prescription. But in case you accidentally added too much water, then don’t overcook this batch. Cook another batch with less water separately and mix to the batch with excess water. Adjust quantities appropriately.

Putting it all together:

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp pureed garlic extracted from slow roasted head of garlic (generously sprinkle water on a head of garlic, wrap in foil and roast at 250F for 2 hrs)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 inch piece of ginger (or mango ginger), finely julienned and pickled (soaked of 30 min in 1 tsp of red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt)
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander leaves or 1 tsp of fresh julienned mint leaves
  • 1 small shallot, finely sliced and freshly pickled (soaked of 10 min in 1 tsp of red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt)
  • 2 tsp of Indian style no oil pickled lime (or moroccan lime), finely diced
  • 1-2 thai green chillies, finely chopped (for reduce heat, use de-seeded and de-veined jalapeño). Using scissors to chop will reduce chances of chilli related accidents.

When ready to serve, warm the daal to simmer. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom container and fry the cumin seeds until dark brown and aromatic. Add black pepper and before the coughing fit kicks in, add this mix to the daal. Add the pureed garlic to 1/2 cup of the daal, mix well and add to the rest. Mix in the lemon juice. Now add the remaining ingredients or let your guest add these garnishes themselves. Serve with rice or chappati or by itself.

Written by Som

October 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Cuisine, Food, Recipe, South Asia

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. […] skin to drain all water and set aside. If making daal from the washed and de-skinned lentil, click here for one particular recipe. The sprouts can be served as a simple salad when mixed with salt, pepper […]

  2. […] The third and fourth courses arrived together – a bean stew and a dish of potatoes and cucumbers. This is where the restaurant veered in the direction of ‘steamed peas’ kind of vegetarianism. The bean stew was texturally quite good with the beans not all mushy and retaining some bite. But, once again, the dish was timidly flavored. There was a hint of heat from chili, but it was the barest hint. There were no sour or sweet components to the dish which left it quite flat tasting. There are a number of vegan Indian daal recipes which could have served as inspiration for this bean stew. Perhaps, something like this? […]

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