Tarka Dal: A Delicious Vegan Lentil Treat

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I LOVE Indian food. I didn’t always, though. Back in 2003 I was visiting D.C. for a training session right before I began working on the upcoming Presidential election and we were treated to dinner at this little family owned Indian restaurant. This was my very first time eating Indian food and to say it was disappointing would be a massive understatement. It was bland and tasteless and awful.

It wasn’t until 2006 when the hubs and I moved to Los Angeles that I had Indian food again and this time it blew my mind. Seriously guys, blew my mind! Anarkali is the name of the place that turned me into an Indian food addict. The first time we visited, I talked with the owners about the different types of curry and the heat levels, and even what was in the delicious spiced tea they served. It was…transformative. From that moment on, I learned everything I could about Indian cuisine and back then I was a huge carnivore–literally and figuratively–and it hasn’t stopped.

The difference is that now that I’m on a plant based diet, I have to plan a little more because you can’t just soak an animal protein in yogurt and toss into a sauce. But then I discovered the beauty and variety of the lentil. Packed with protein and low in calories, this is one of the vegan superfoods of our time. Dramatic much, right? Seriously though, lentils are the BOMB.

Enter, tarka dal.

A delicious yellow lentil dish that can be served with grains or with a little extra broth for a hearty soup that’s guaranteed to warm your bones.

Of course, like most of these dishes, there are a variety of ingredients you can use. But for this vegan version, I used:

Ginger

Lemongrass

Garlic

Tomatoes

Onions

Yellow lentils

Curry, coriander & cumin seeds

Lemons

Vegetable broth (homemade)

Mint, parsley & scallions for garnish

 

As you guys know, I’ve been trying to minimize my oil intake for health and good skin purposes but for this recipe it is kind of essential because you need to fry the seeds a bit before adding the curry and vegetables to the skillet. Also, make sure you cook the lentils early enough to give them time to cook so that when you’re ready to combine everything, it’s all ready to go.

vegan lentil soup

The best thing about this dish, aside from the taste, is how easily it comes together. Once the seeds are fragrant, add the first five ingredients and cook until they’re slightly browned and done. Then add the veg and broth to the pot of lentils, along with the lentil and warm until blended together. Add more or less lemon as needed.

When everything is good to go, top with the garnish and enjoy. If you’re feeling really adventurous, add a chopped chili pepper. I didn’t add one here because my in-laws can’t take the heat and I didn’t want to kill them. But trust me, it’ll change your life if you do!

I served it here with couscous because couscous is delicious but also because we had a rice dish the day before and I didn’t want a repeat. And because I didn’t have any suitable naan-like bread handy.

What’s your favorite soup?

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