Kali Dal

Looks can be deceiving… This looks kinda meh, but tastes really good with naan, pita chips, rice, etc. This makes a good side dish or main dish and is absolutely vegetarian and can be vegan if you omit the cream. The original recipe called for a lot more oil and cream. I (mostly) followed their recommendations and found the dish to be a bit too rich. I’ve lowered my amounts of both ingredients to allow for a more reasonable amount of fat and flavor.

While you may argue that even this amount of fat is too much to be considered “healthy” consider the fact that the nutrients found in most legumes, and vegetables are more readily available if they’re ingested along with some fat. Eating some fat, especially healthy fats, contrary to the old “fat free” ideology, is likely much better for you. What do doctors consider healthy fats? Olive oil is almost unarguably very good for you, as is fish oil. Scientists are weighing in on how healthy canola oil and others are. The debate is currently on the topic of the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids. Using clarified butter (ghee) in this dish would add lots of flavor, but it also contains a lot of saturated fat. Doctors advise that animal fat, in moderation, can be good for you, but given that I’m using 1/4 cup of oil I’ve opted for the Smart Balance Omega blend.

The bottom line, use what you’re comfortable with and what your doctors recommend. If you feel that a low fat diet is better for you, go for it. While I am not a nutritionist, I learned in my medical courses that eating simple carbs (sugar, white bread, white rice, etc) is far more detrimental to your cholesterol and triglycerides than eating small amounts of fat and cholesterol. This is because your body creates cholesterol from carbs. It is harder for your body to make “good” cholesterol than it is to make “bad”. It is thought that spiking your blood sugar (by eating simple carbs) makes your body go into overdrive producing cholesterol. If you have a surplus of building materials, your body makes the easier to synthesize “bad” cholesterol. Anyway, enough of my silly nerd talk. Onto the cooking!


  • 9 oz dried whole black gram (sabat urad) which can be found in most Indian Marts
  • 1 large onion – roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves – skinned and roughly chopped
  • 2 in. long piece of ginger – skinned and roughly chopped
  • 1 green chili – roughly chopped ( I subbed 1 dried, de-seeded and de-veined ancho chili)
  • 1/4 cup high temperature cooking oil
  • 2 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs ground corriander
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt (to your taste)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder (not for making chili – but powdered hot peppers as in cayenne powder although indian chillies are preferred)
  • 3 Tbs garam masala (I normally hate garam masala but they have a Kashmiri blend at World Spice near Pike Place that I love, you can order online if you aren’t local)
  • 1/4 cup half and half


  1. Pick through your black gram and take out any rocks or debris. Rinse them under water and drain them. Place them in a large soup pot and add 8 cups of water. Bring it up to a boil and bring it down to a high simmer for about 1 hour or until the gram is soft. Drain the dal and reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid.
  2. Blend the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli together in a food processor to form a paste. You can finely chop them with a knife if you don’t have a processor. Heat the oil in a LARGE frying pan. Add the onion mixture and fry over high heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Add the cumin and coriander and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Add the drained dal, salt, chilli powder and garam masala and stir. Pour 1 1/4 cups of the reserved liquid into the pan, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add enough of the cooking liquid to get your desired consistency (you want it to be thick like a very hearty stew but not dry). Just before serving add the half and half and simmer for another minute or two.
  3. Serve with naan, rice, or bread.

* A note about garam masala. I’ve found that the store brands tend to contain a lot of salt. This keeps costs down because salt is cheap. Taste your garam masala before you use it in this recipe. If it tastes like it has ANY salt in it, you may not want to use it here. 3 Tbs is a lot of it to be adding to this dish if it is a salty product. The spices at World Spice Market do not contain any added salt. Any reputable spice market/ store will have salt free spice blends. Check out your local vendors and if you can’t find a good one… World Spice is online and delivers. http://www.worldspice.com/


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