20 January 2013

Yellow dal - tempering or tadka recipes

If you are Indian, or enjoy cooking Indian, you would surely have stumbled on this conundrum for yellow dal (lentil): staring back at you from the pressure cooker would be this yellow/brown goop (depending on the dal), for which you have to decide what tempering (hindi: tadka) should you add?

In the countless recipes published for the various dals, you would notice the same set of ingredients - cumin, mustard, ginger, garlic, onions, tomato, coriander, garam masala, panch phoren for the bengalis - yet, for those of you with a discerning palate, you may yearn for a different twist each time?

I do. I have compiled here a series of tadkas, mainly so I have a record of the choices I have and to help those of you, who might face similar dilemmas while getting your yellow dal together for the evening meal.

I am assuming a couple of things here: 1) you are already familiar with general proportions of what goes into a tadka, so there are no specific quantities for the ingredients; 2) you add the tadka after the dal is cooked and turmeric has been added while the dal cooked and 3) F = Fried, presumably if you know a bit about proportions, you also know how much to fry. The ingredients are listed in the order that they I typically add them it. For a richer taste you can use ghee (clarified butter). 
  1. oil, cumin, green chillies, F, Add lemon juice and coriander leaves just before consuming
  2. oil, cumin, coriander leaves, garlic, F
  3. oil, mustard, cumin, crushed dried red chillies, garlic, F
  4. oil, cumin, cloves, crushed dried red chillies, garlic, F
  5. oil, mustard, cumin, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, onions sautéed till they are translucent.
  6. oil, onions fried till brown, F, ginger, garlic, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chill powder, tomatoes, F till oil leaves the masala, garnish with garam masala and coriander leaves
  7. (for Sambhar): oil, hing, mustard, curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, red chillies
  8. (for Rasam): oil, hing, mustard, curry leaves, cumin
  9. oil, onion seeds, green chillies, F
  10. oil, shahi jeera, black cardamom, onions, onions sautéed till they are translucent.
For me essentially the amount of time I have, and the type of dal, decide the tadka. More time means onions and the whole shebang masala can be made; heavier the dal (whole urad), more is the masala needed. But this is all so very personal. Enjoy making it however you like, with which ever combination of tempering that suits you. What I have recorded here is perhaps a small subset of the tadka category - experiment away!


  1. Thank you for these tadka ideas. I use the same combination every time!

    Do you make dal in the pressure cooker? I end up burning dal when I try making it in the pressure cooker.

  2. Hi Varsha: Just add more water while cooking dal, if it's burning up each time. However, be cautious that the water + dal volume not exceed 2/3rd of the total pressure cooker volume. Have fun with the different tadkas.