Classic Nepali Dal (Lentil) dish

One half of Nepal’s most internationally famous dish; Dal – Bhat (lentil soup with boiled rice). 

Main ingredient: the main ingredient of these dishes is dhal (lentils).  Dhal’s nutrients and health enhancing benefits include being a major source of vitamins B, potassium, zinc, and magnesium, iron, of protein.

There are a number of types of Dal, and of different colours: the best known of which are:

  • Yellow and red: nutty and sweet in flavour, they cook swiftly because split – famous as the main lentil types for making dal They’re great for making dal and have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavour.
  • Urad dal – black lentils (also known as ‘Beluga’: see below): popular in some Nepali dal dishes

Other types of Dal:

  • Puy: green in colour, and named after the French region of Le Puy. Peppery in taste.
  • Green: a less expensive version of Puy, and often larger in size
  • Brown: In the West these are perhaps the most often used type of lentil, especially used in stews.
  • Beluga: tiny black lentils, often used as a base in warm salads

Taste description & background:

It was, as with almost all Nepali people the first main dish I remember having as a very young child, and is a fundamental component in the Nepali classical and home cooking foods repertoire.  Over the years I learned how to cook different versions, including Urad Dal (Black Lentil), composite dal dish with simee (beans), and various degrees of thickness (from soup to more like a stew) of consistency, and spiciness from adding chilis.  Getting the spices just right is the foundation for successful dhal.

Quantity: Serves 2 people two times, or four people for one occasion.

Time taken on creating dish: after initial overnight to one day soaking stage for the lentils, the preparation and cooking time takes about 1.5 hours (15 minutes approximately for preparation of the ingredients)


  • Pressure cooker or large pan with lid
  • Chopping board
  • Knives
  • Deep-based frying pan and lid
  • Spatula / wooden stirring spoon


Please note: Usually the lentils (Dal) are left in boiled water (umaaleko paani) overnight ahead of being cooked the next day.

  • 250g of dal, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
  • 2.5 to 3 medium size tomatoes
  • A finely chopped small to medium sized onion
  • ¾ teaspoon of garam masala (Nepali and most forms of Garam Masala, which is a composite of different spices, often includes fiery Szechuan chili pepper, dried cumin and ginger)
  • 2-3 finely chopped green birds eye chillies (retaining or discarding seeds depending on whether you want your dal fiery hot or mild)
  • 2cm width piece of finely diced/cut into small strips of fresh ginger
  • ½ a bulb of garlic, chopped into large chunks (part of their infusion role in the dal as it cooks)
  • ¾ teaspoon of turmeric
  • A tbsp cumin seed (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon of ground dhania/coriander (optional)
  • Fresh chopped coriander leaves (optional) – for garnishing
  • A pinch of salt– to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper (Maric) – to taste
  • Lemon (Kagati): optional – a squeeze


The lentils are soaked overnight in boiled water. Put lentils in a litre of water in a pressure cooker and simmer for 45 minutes, then take out, allow for some time to cool and thicken. Then prepare a deep-based frying pan that has sides and bottom prepared with heated oil, add in spices ginger and chilies, followed by tomatoes and onion directly or from having been blended separately first, and then the other spices/masala and seasoning including turmeric.

Then add the lentils and a little more water depending on the thickness of the dal you desire, and simmer and stir on a medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Include red peppercorns or Szechuan dried chilis* and a little salt and black pepper to taste, and add, if you wish, some fresh chopped coriander to garnish, and a squeeze of lemon if preferred (this can be on individual servings if requested) 

* NOTE: red chilis are prepared for Szechuan dried style (you can buy them already dried too, but they will not be so freshly prepared as in this method), by placing and turning on a hotplate

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