We often forget how fast and easy it is to whip up a vegetarian Indian meal, especially with a pressure cooker (we like our stove top pressure cooker like this one). Moong Dal with Tadka makes for a quick and comforting lunch or dinner. We like to serve ours with some sautéed mustard greens over basmati rice.
Tadka (variously known as chhonk, bagar, phodni, vagarne, oggarane, and more, depending on the region) is a core technique in Indian cooking that involves blooming whole spices (and sometimes other ingredients) in fat to extract their aromas and fat-soluble flavors. The highly perfumed fat and its contents are either spooned onto a finished dish (which often incites a flourish of crackling and sizzling) or incorporated during cooking. The particular ingredients in tadka vary greatly depending on the food that is being seasoned as well as the cook’s community, caste, and region, but classic combinations do exist. For instance, in Kerala, a mix of coconut, cinnamon stick, star anise, and clove is popular; Punjabis combine cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, clove, ginger, garlic, and onion; and Bengali cooks enjoy black mustard seed, cumin seed, nigella seed, and fenugreek seed. Regardless of the particular ingredients, the contributions of a tadka are many.
To make tadka, you can use a small saute pan, but we suggest getting a tadka pan to make the job easier.
Shopping List & Prep
1C moong dal (split yellow lentils)
1" piece of ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
2 TBSP ghee, coconut or vegetable oil
1 TBSP ghee, coconut or vegetable oil
5-6largegarlic cloves, thinlysliced
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1-2dried red chilies
1/2 tspcumin seeds
6-7curry leaves (fresh best, dried works fine—optional)
1/4 tspasafoetida (optional)
4 C cooked basmati rice
In Instant Pot or small stove top pressure cooker over medium-high heat 2 TBSP ghee or oil, add garlic and ginger, cook for 1-2 minutes stirring often—DO NOT LET IT BROWN.
Add the dal, 3 cups water, chopped tomato, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and salt. Stir to combine.
Cook for 5 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then do quick release.
Stove Top Pressure Cooker
Cook for 2 blasts on high heat. Let the pressure release naturally.
Once pressure is released...
Open lid and stir the dal. Add water, 1/4 C at a time to adjust consistency (it should be like runny oatmeal).
Tadka will go from cooked just right to burnt fast so it’s important to have everything sliced and measured and ready to go before you heat the oil.
In a small pan, heat 1 TBSP of ghee or oil over medium heat.
Once oil is hot, add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and 1/2 tsp cumin seeds. Let them sizzle until the mustard seeds start to pop.
Add the asafoetida (optional)
Add the sliced garlic and dried red chilies, sauté for 2-3 minutes until garlic turns light brown.
Add the curry leaves, sauté for few seconds.
Pour tadka over cooked dal, stir lightly to combine.
Add in the lemon juice and chopped cilantro, stir to combine.