Charcoal Smoked Indian Dal (Smoked lentils)


Hello all! I am mighty excited as I write this post; my recipes have been accepted by a few food forums. It feels great to see your pictures in their forums, a sense of reassurance, I guess. I have taken to cooking after 27 years of pondering about where I was going with my life. It is the greatest feeling when you discover what you are passionate about and are automatically willing to strive towards the same. Very few of us have the opportunity to do what we love, I am one such!

The word ‘dal’ had the following impact on me:

  1. My eyes rolled with boredom.
  2. My eyes shrunk with anger.
  3. And an expressionless face.

We in India survive on lentils, our source of protein. In most households, dal is the most obvious answer to a, ‘What’s for dinner’ question. But the interesting part is that when we dine at an Indian restaurant, one of the many dishes ordered has got to be dalJ. That’s probably because we like the way dal is differently made outside of our home.

I haven’t gotten anything against lentils and I love them. But, I try and renovate every single time. The loveliest varieties of Dal being Dal tadka, Dal fry and Makhani dal. Piping hot dal with a nice warm roti sprinkled with dust off the highway! Yummy! 😉 So, if you ever visit India or live in India please ensure you eat at eateries on the highways, much popularly known as Dhabas!

What is it about this dhaba dal that you just cannot replicate no matter what…?  For me, it had to be the smoky flavor. I even went to the extent of thinking they used stale oil in Dhabas to bring out the smoky flavor. It implies nothing, I know. Anyway, after much research, my husband discovered a way to make this dal at home in my lovely, scarcely equipped kitchen.

What you need

I use a mixture of mung dal and tuvar dal, as, I like the flavors of both.

Cook the lentils with salt and turmeric in a pressure cooker for about 5 to 6 pressure releases.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger and a chopped green chili and sauté for 15-20 seconds. These three ingredients are a wok on fire… Apologies!

Add finely chopped onions and sauté until golden brown. I, believe, cooking on the lowest flame brings out the flavors best and implement this when I have plenty of time on my hands.

Getting back to the pressure cooker, DO NOT force open the cooker, as my mother does and paints the walls yellow every single time. On a more serious note, this can be extremely dangerous, so be patient, let the pressure take it’s time to release and slowly go for the lid!

Once the lentils are cooked, put it back on heat (lowest flame), you can also adjust the consistency to your liking with water.

I have a tomato disease! I am not too fond of biting into pieces of cooked tomato although I love the flavor. I am fussy…only when I cook.

To avoid the above, I cut up 2 big chunks of tomato and throw it into my lentil pot and let it simmer away.

Once the onions have turned golden, add a little salt (I prefer black salt at this point), chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and cook for a minute.

Add the onion mixture to the pot and continue cooking the lentils for another 5-7 minutes.

Put off the flame and set aside. Chop up some fresh coriander and add to the hot lentils and stir.

Now, for the smoking part, get hold of a big chunk of charcoal and heat to red hot directly on the flame.

In order to spread the heat to the other side of the charcoal, turn over with a pair of tongs.

Place a small heat proof bowl in the lentil pot.

Once the charcoal is RED hot, place carefully into the bowl and now, be swift!

Pour about 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee on to the hot charcoal.

Cover the pot immediately with a tight lid, so the smoke from the coal is trapped inside. Leave the lid on for around 5 minutes. When done, open the pot and get rid of charcoal bowl and its contents.

This smoke gets infused in the dal and renders the dal its’ flavor.

Now, for the tempering (tadka/ chaunk), sliver about 5 pods of garlic, pick out dry red chilies, fill half a teaspoon with cumin seeds, place the asafetida and chili powder by the counter.

Heat a teaspoon of oil and a tablespoon of ghee is a tiny wok. Add the ingredients carefully in this order; garlic- sauté until lightly brown.

Then continue with cumin seeds, asafetida, and dry red chili and put off the flame. Now, add half a teaspoon of chili powder and stir.

Pour the tempering right on top of the lentils.

I know it is very tempting to ruin it all by stirring right through. But, refrain from doing so as the tempering looks lovely floating right on top.

Hope you guys enjoyed this recipe.

Have a great day!


Tuvar dal half cup

Mung dal half cup

Onion 1 big chopped fine

Tomato half cut in 2

Garlic 5 pods chopped fine and 5 pods slivered

Ginger half thumb


Fresh chili 1 chopped

Cumin powder 1 tsp

Chili powder 1 tsp

Coriander powder 1 tsp

Turmeric powder half tsp

Black salt half tsp

Cumin seeds 1 tsp

Asafetida half tsp

Dried red chili 3-4

Charcoal 1 big piece




Cook the lentils with turmeric and salt in a pressure cooker. Once cooked, add water to desired consistency, tomato pieces and simmer. Heat oil in a wok and add garlic, ginger and green chili and sauté. Add onions and stir around until golden. Add black salt, chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and cook for a minute. Add this mixture to the lentils and continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes. Chop fresh coriander and stir into the dal and set aside. Smoke the dal by heating charcoal to red hot and placing it in a bowl, placed in the lentil pot. Drizzle oil/ ghee over the hot charcoal and close the pot tightly trapping the smoke. The dal, is thus, smoked. For the tempering, heat oil/ ghee in a tiny wok and add garlic, cumin seeds, asafetida and dry red chilies. Put off flame and add chili powder. Pour the tempering over cooked lentils and serve hot!

So, what do you think ?