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Dal Bhat Tarkari

Dal Bhat Tarkari (Nepalese vegetable curry with lentil soup and rice)

(Nepalese vegetable curry with lentil soup and rice)

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The words simply mean "lentil, rice, vegetable curry," but dal bhat tarkari (दाल भात तरकारी) is a foundation of Nepalese cuisine. This basic combination takes on innumerable configurations based on season, region and household preferences.

Dal bhat tarkari is a great framework for making healthy, well-balanced vegetarian meals. Below is a basic recipe, but feel free to experiment with the vegetables, lentils, spices and more.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Dal (Lentil soup)

  • Oil or ghee -- 3 tablespoons
  • Ground coriander -- 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cumin -- 2 teaspoons
  • Turmeric -- 1 teaspoon
  • Onion, minced -- 1
  • Chile pepper, minced -- 1
  • Tomatoes, chopped -- 1 cup
  • Dal lentils (see notes) -- 1 cup
  • Water -- 4 cups
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 bunch

Bhat (Rice)

  • Basmatic rice -- 2 cups
  • Water -- 4 cups

Tarkari (Vegetable curry)

  • Ground coriander -- 1 tablespoon
  • Ground cumin -- 2 teaspoons
  • Turmeric -- 1 teaspoon
  • Oil or ghee -- 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, finely chopped -- 1
  • Garlic, finely chopped -- 3 or 4 cloves
  • Gingerroot, peeled and minced -- 1-inch piece
  • Tomatoes, seeded and chopped -- 2
  • Potatoes, cubed -- 2
  • Califlower, cut into florets -- 1 head
  • Water -- 1 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Lemons or limes, cut into wedges -- 2

Method

For the Dal

  1. Heat the oil or ghee in a medium saucepan over medium flame. Add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds to lightly toast them. Immediately stir in the onion and chile pepper and saute until the onions are cooked through and translucent, 3 or 4 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook down for a minute or two. Then stir in the dal, water and salt and pepper to season.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 45 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

For the Rice

  1. Place the rice in a bowl and rinse with a couple changes of fresh water and drain well. Add the 4 cups of water and set aside to soak the rice for about 30 minutes.
  2. Put the rice and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high flame. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for another 10 minutes before serving.

For the Tarkari (Vegetable Curry)

  1. Heat the oil or ghee in a wok, karahi or large pot over medium flame. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric and stir for about 30 seconds to lightly toast. Then immediately stir in the onion, garlic and ginger. Saute until the onion is well cooked, reduced in volume a loses its raw flavor, anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes. Take care not to burn the onions.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook down for a minute or two. Next add in the potatoes and cauliflower and stir to heat through. Stir in the water and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through and tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped cilantro.

To Serve

Dal bhat tarkari is typically served on a thali, a metal serving platter, with a bowl of dal, a scoop of rice, a serving of vegetable curry and a pickle (achar).

Dhal Bhat Tarkari Variations

  • Dal: There are numerous types of dal available. Some of the more common are masoor dal, urad dal, chana dal and toor dal. Feel free to use whichever you like best or have on hand.
  • Vegetables: Don't limit yourself to potatoes and cauliflower for the tarkari. Use seasonal vegetables like green beans, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, summer squash, eggplant. Add the sturdier vegetables first to allow them to get a head start on cooking. Add the more tender veggies later so they don't overcook.
  • Alternatives to Rice: Nepalese will often serve barley or millet instead of rice. You can also serve it with bread like naan or roti if you like.

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