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Indians eat a lot of lentils. More than anyone else. Since they're the biggest consumer on the planet, they grow a lot of lentils and are one of the worlds largest producers. However, they eat even more than they grow, so India is also the world's largest importer of lentils from Canada, who is the world's largest exporter. Whew. That's a lot of lentils! Especially in the historically vegetarian state of Gujarat, where they're part of every meal, usually in Thali. This classic vegetarian meal always includes basmati rice, whole grain bread, curried vegetables and sweet, tangy, spicy curried lentil dal. This staple is part of every home's traditional food, so naturally every cook creates their own signature version!
This recipe is from the India webisode of Lentil Hunter with Chef Michael Smith.
2 cups (500 mL) split red lentils
6 cups (1.5 L) water
1 Tbsp (15 mL) jaggery cane sugar, other raw cane sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) turmeric
1 tsp (5 mL) ginger powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cayenne pepper
2 small fresh green chilies, chopped
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
2 ripe tomatoes
1 Tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
1 tsp (5 mL) mustard seeds
1 tsp (5 mL) fennel seeds
1/2 tsp (2 mL) asafoetida powder (optional, see note)
1/2 cup (125 mL) tender cilantro leaves and stems, lightly chopped for garnish
2 limes cut into wedges for garnish
Note: Asafoetida Powder is a common Indian spice ade by drying the gum that oozes from the tap root of the Ferula herb. It’s a digestive aid and anti-flatulent. It’s also a flavour enhancer so it adds a savoury Umamilike dimension to the dish. It’s widely available from main-stream grocery stores or Indian specialty grocers and is usually sold mixed with wheat powder. If you can’t find any, don’t despair, just leave it out. Your dal will still be delicious!