Indian Lentil Soup

by Rachel on April 5, 2013

Indian Lentil Soup

A couple of weeks ago I took a great Indian cooking class from my friend Asma. Asma sails through her kitchen like a beautiful, glossy black bird. She is completely at ease, full of grace, and even in the heat of preparing six dishes at once, still has a wry bit of wit. Lesser women (and men) would have collapsed under such pressure. Not our Asma. One of the dishes she made was a classic Indian Masoor Daal. She’s partial to the red lentil (rather than the split yellow lentil) because it cooks through a bit more easily. This soup bears little resemblance to the lentil soups I’ve made – which are more Americanized and have a host of additional ingredients like chopped vegetables and such. This is a dish for lentil purists. It’s vegan, hearty, comforting and delicious.

Split Yellow Lentil Toor Daal or Red Lentil Masoor Daal (makes 6-8 side dish servings)

  • ¾ cup split yellow lentils or canary red lentils (we used red)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1-2 serrano cilies, sliced into thin rounds – including the seeds
  • ½ yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves (optional – hard to find except in Indian markets)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • chopped cilantro for garnish

Place the lentils in a large soup pot, cover with one inch of water and boil until very soft (about 20 minutes). Add extra water if necessary to keep the lentils covered while cooking. Set aside.

In a small saucepan heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and heat until they begin to make a spattering sound (they are bursting). Add the sliced garlic and green chilies and sauté on medium-high heat until their color starts to change. Add the onions and continue to cook until the onions start to change color. This whole process won’t take more than a few minutes. Add this entire mixture, including the oil, to the lentils. Place the lentils in a soup pot on the stove and bring to a simmer. Add water until you reach desired soup thickness. Add salt to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.

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