Food is such an important part of our culture. Food is served with emotion, tradition and memories. It’s varied from country to country and from home to home. It reminds us of specific events and people. It can in an instant transport us to another place. It’s visceral and poignant.
Since we get the pleasure of working with people all over the world, we want to be intentional about honoring their cultures and traditions through learning and listening. We thought it would be fun and interesting to learn more about dishes commonly prepared in our communities, so we decided to make them ourselves. I wish you could smell and taste these delicious homemade dishes, but you’ll just have to make them yourself.
First up in our recipes is Dal Tadka.
Dal Tadka is one of the most popular staple dishes served in many of the Bangladesh communities where we work.
Dal is a term for dried, split pulses (that is, lentils, peas, and beans). The term is also used for various soups prepared from these pulses. These pulses form an important part of Indian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cuisines. Dals are frequently eaten with flatbreads such as roti or chapati or with rice, a combination referred to as dal bhat.
Tadka refers to the cooking technique used in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka cuisines, in which whole spices (and sometimes also other ingredients such as dried chilies, minced ginger root or sugar) are roasted briefly in oil or ghee to liberate essential oils from cells and thus enhance their flavors, before being poured, together with the oil, into a dish.
Here’s how you can make this in your own home. Maybe even for dinner tonight. It might be a great way to talk to your family about the communities where Food for the Hungry (FH) works… just sayin’.
1 cup of lentils (you can also use peas or beans like moong dal)
2 sliced medium onions
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
½ tablespoon of garlic paste
½ teaspoon of red chili powder
½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
½ teaspoon of coriander seed powder
3 to 4 Indian bay leaves
6 ½ cups of water
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon of oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
3 to 4 sliced green chilis
1 teaspoon of dried cumin seed powder
If using raw lentils, cook on a stovetop, using 3 cups of liquid (water, stock) to 1 cup of dry lentils. Be sure to use a large enough saucepan as the lentils will double or triple in size. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender. For whole lentils, cook time is typically 15-20 minutes. For the purposes of this recipe, we used precooked lentils.
In a saucepan, add one sliced onion, salt, garlic paste, oil, red chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander seed powder and Indian bay leaves and turn on medium heat for five to eight minutes or until onions are browned.
Add onions mixture to pot of lentils, adding 3 additional cups of water to the pot. Bring water back to a boil and simmer.
In a separate saucepan, heat cooking oil to a medium heat. Add chopped garlic and the second sliced onion, sauté until golden brown.
Add the sauce to the dal pot along with the chopped green chilies and simmer for at least three minutes.
Sprinkle the dried cumin seed powder on top and mix it in.