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Mike Wolfberg's Recipe for Pancha Dal - Five Dals

This is one of a dozen recipes developed by Mike for a Concord/Carlisle Massachusetts Newcomers Gourmet Group dinner which took place on 1-Mar-75.

(Approximate preparation time: 45 during 60 minutes)


  1. In a large 4- to 6-quart covered pot bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, thorough wash and clean (throwing out any foreign particles) just the toor dals in a strainer, running very hot water through it and also dipping it into a bowl of very hot water. (The washing of the other dals should be done in cold water in later steps.)
  2. When the water boils, add the salt and then the toor dals and stir once. Reduce the heat to medium and cook covered for 10 minutes. (This is the first cooking period.) The water should boil, but not overflow the pot; adjust the heat accordingly.
  3. Thorough wash and clean the chana dal (in cold water), and when the 10 minutes are up, add it to the pot and stir once. Cook the two dals in the covered pot for another 10 minutes. (This is the second cooking period.)
  4. Thorough wash and clean the mung dal. After the second cooking period, add it to the pot and stir once. Cook the three dals in the covered pot for another 10 minutes. (This is the third cooking period.)
  5. Thoroughly wash and clean the urad and masoor dals. After the third cooking period, add them to the pot and stir once. Cook the five dals in the covered pot for 15 minutes. (This is the fourth cooking period.) Meanwhile, go on to steps 6 and 7.
  6. Handle the chilies with care - see the note Handling Chilies. Split the dried red hot chili pod and discard the seeds. Very finely chop the pod and set it aside for used in step 10.
  7. Scrape or slice away the brown skin of the ginger root and discard. Finely chop the ginger to yield 1 tsp.
  8. After the fourth cooking period, uncover the pot and stir in the chopped ginger, turmeric, ground cumin, and ground coriander seeds. Cook for another 2 minutes uncovered. Remove the pot from the heat (The appearance is that of thick split pea soup.)
  9. For the next step you may use a second pot (at least 3-quart); if you don't have one handy, empty the dal into a large bowl and then clean and dry the pot.
  10. In the second pot (with a cover) place the mustard oil over low heat. Stir in the chopped dried chili pepper and the black mustard seeds. Cover the pot and shake it occasionally; as the oil heats up, the seeds will pop and spatter. When they have stopped spattering, remove the pan from the heat. STEP BACK TO AVOID BREATHING THE HOT FUMES, remove the cover, and slowly pour the cooked dals from the first pot (or bowl) into the second pot; it may make a loud noise when added. Thoroughly stir, cover, and set aside. There is no need to refrigerate the dish when it is being served the same day.
  11. Wash and pat dry the fresh cilantro. Cut away bad parts. Wrap it paper toweling, put it in a plastic bag, and refrigerate.

Take to the hosthome: the dals in the covered pot, lemon, and cilantro.

At the hosthome:

  1. Reheat the dal uncovered over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, continue making further preparations.
  2. Juice the lemon to yield just 3 TBL. of juice, and set it aside for use in step D.
  3. Retain a small sprig of cilantro for decoration. Cut away the stems of the other cilantro sprigs, retaining just the leaves. Finely chop the leaves to yield about 2 tsp.
  4. Just before serving, sprinkle the chopped cilantro into the dal. Stir in the lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Place the dal in a warmed serving bowl or soup tureen. Artistically position the decoration sprig of cilantro, and serve.

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