Recipe : Vegetarian dhal

It can be daunting for a Chinese to try Indian cooking because most recipes call for ingredients not familiar. I think it is the same thing for everyone who tries cooking the ethnic dishes of other races.


One look at an Indian recipe, you will probably see lots and lots of spices names. Well, I have an easy way out of this problem. Just grab one packet of pre-mix spices from the supermarket shelves. It comes with little black and brown seeds plus some grains like things. These are poppy, fennel, cummin, coriander and fenugreek. Next, grab another pre-mix of bigger pieces of spices such as cinnamon, star anise, clove, cardamons and white peppercorn. You can find these pre-mix packets in bigger supermarkets like Tesco.

The above photo shows the various spices being stir fried with curry leaves, onions and garlic.

(Great news – I google for biji halba or fenugreek and my own parenting website comes out top! Woohoo! BTW, fenugreek is the flat brownish seeds that we believe to increase breastmilk production. You can find recipes believed to increase breastmilk on my website here.)


This is a bowl of grams/legume. They are red, yellow and green gram. These are either imported from USA or India. Again, you can find these different varieties from the supermarket or Indian shops. Soak them in water for a while to fasten the cooking process.


Any variety of vegetables is fine as long as they are the hardy type like snakegourd, the drumsticks or white radish. The essentials are tomatoes to give the sourish taste and green chillies for the flavour.


Since I am cooking vegetarian dhal, I use this meat substitute made from soya bean. It is first soaked in water to soften and added to the cooked dhal later. This is for the protein requirements.


The vegetarian dhal with a serving of French loaf. I have several portions which I freezed in individual container. They can be easily thaw and heat up for other days.

It took me very little time to prepare this because I merely need to chop up the vegetables.

Here’s an estimate recipe:

Vegetarian dhal

1 large teaspoon – Spices consisting of whole fennels, cummins, coriander, fenugreek and poppy seeds

Two or three each of star anise, clove, cardamon and 1 cinnamon stick

1 sprig curry leaves

1 bulb garlic, smashed and skin removed

2 large onions, quartered

1 packet of meat curry powder

1 tablespoon of ghee (or use some oil, ghee will provide that authentic smell)

Stir fry the above till fragrant.

Add in

1 bowl of gram, mixture of any varieties

2 potatoes, cubed

4 tomatoes, quartered

1 carrot, cubed

4 green chillies, cut length wise

4 bowls of water or until the water covers the ingredients.

Salt to taste

Cook till tender. It may takes a while using normal pot. Stir often because the grams may burn the pot bottom. I use a pressure cooker and it takes about 20 minutes.

To add in meat substitutes or meat, only add this in after the grams are soften.

Another almost similar curry can be found here. Plus a mutton lentil curry here.

Explanation by Wikipedia what is lentil, legume, dal and such.

Lots of Indian vegetarian recipes can be found here.

10 Replies to “Recipe : Vegetarian dhal”

  1. how come you could make this sounds so super easy? i have meant to try making dhal cos i really like it a lot but the number of ingredients really made me shake head hehehe but i might try it one day

  2. Hei 5xmom,

    You actually made a funky vege-dalcha! Except that Dhalcha only contains split Channa dhall (the yellow gram. Dhall preparation itself is different from Dalcha, it doesnt have any vegetables inside. If you want, I can give you the recipe. Cheers!

  3. Lilian, if you can, please provide a glossary of spice names in English, referenced with Malay and Hokkien. That will help us when we go marketing.

  4. It is true that halba or fenugreek can increase your breastmilk. I’ve tried it before for my 1st and 2nd kids, and it does promote more milk. But the downturn is, when you sweat, your armpit and sweat smell like curry….

  5. mallanhead – I got that too. I feel like a walking packet of curry powder. Fish variety. LOL. Thanks for sharing that ‘cos I am sure a lot of moms will be convince. I notice that Malays and Indians seem to have easier time breastfeeding and I suspect it must be the curries they eat.

    Tim – Will do! When I get back my Z3 ‘cos it takes better super macro shots.

    foodcrazee – Its my passion!

    Rathi – Owh, so it is vegetable dalcha and not dhal? I see….yes, please share your recipe!

    You can copy it here or mail me, please? I promise to cook them and share online.

    babe – Once you decide to just forget the pinches, teaspoons and all those stuffs, it gets easier.

    boo- Cooking lentils is a new thing to me ‘cos I thot they are hard to soften but actually no.

  6. Sure thing! Dhall is simple, hope you enjoy it.

    Red Lentils (Mysore Dall) – 2-3 handfuls
    1 green chilli split lengthwise and halved
    2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
    2cm slice of ginger, lightly smashed
    1 large ripe tomato, chopped
    1 large purple onion sliced
    a few curry leaves
    1 dried red chilli cut into small pieces (optional)
    chopped coriander leaves
    quarter teaspoon mustard seeds
    quarter teaspoon cumin
    1 tablespoon ghee
    salt to taste
    pinch of turmeric OR 1 teaspoon of sambar powder
    1 tablespoon coconut milk/full cream milk/low fat milk

    – Wash the lentils, add it into a pot along with 3 cups of water. Also add green chilli, tomato, ginger, garlic, and a tiny pinch of turmeric (this is just for color, dont add too much or it will taste horrid!) or the sambar powder.
    Let boil till the lentils are cooked. Red lentils cook quite fast, approx 20-25 mins. It gets soft and mushy. Turn off the heat

    – In a seperate frying pan, heat the ghee till it melts. Add the mustard seeds and fry till the mustard seeds dont ‘pop’ anymore. Stand back while doing this. Add in the cumin, onions, curry leaves and dried chilli and stir fry till onions are cooked. Add this fried mixture to the lentils.

    – Turn the heat back on and stir the dhall through. Add salt to taste and add the coconut milk, bring to one boil and turn off the stove. sprinkle the chopped coriander and serve.

    This tastes great with prata or chappati. Serve it hot with rice and pappads…

    Happy cooking. Let me know if you run into some difficulty.

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