ain’t your mama’s Toor Dal: recipe & notes

(repost b/c of accidental deletion; first posted on 1/31/07)

One of my friends cooked me his toor dal. I was concerned that he simply stuck in some veggies into the toor dal without saute-ing or blanching those first, causing some texture issues. He told me it wasn’t as good as his mom’s, and he was just a bachelor, but, I thought it was divine all the same.

Mine of course, can’t be half as good as his mama’s, but, still manages to be quite tasty. Unlike my friend’s dish, there’s a good dose of chicken (his version was vegan – sans ngouc mam and chicken). If you are going to substitute anything, do not chance it on the toor dal – these yellow peas have quite a distinct and sweetish flavor with a lovely, granular texture. They are worth the additional expense.


  • 1 dry cup of toor dal (also spelled “tur dal”) (soaked overnight, turning into several cups) {mine were SWAD brand, available from Cub Foods);
  • 1/2 lb yellow onion;
  • 10 chicken thighs;
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of sambar curry powder;
  • 2 tablespoons of ngouc mam;
  • 1 can of tomatoes, 16 oz; and
  • vegetable oil.

Drain the toor dal, and set aside. Heat a large skillet or wok to medium. Chop the yellow onion into pieces no smaller than 1/4″. Wash the chicken thighs in cold, salted water. Remove the skin, then slice each thigh into 2 or 3 pieces, lengthwise. By now, the skillet should be hot. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. In go the onions. Once the onions have sweated a little bit, add the sambar – don’t stop stirring!!! Otherwise, the curry will burn. When the onions are nice and golden, set aside the onion/curry sauté.

Clean the skillet. At this time, plug in your slow cooker – set it to the highest temperature – keep an eye on it to make sure it does not start burning anything. If it gets too hot, add a little water.

Heat the skillet again. When it’s hot enough, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add several pieces of chicken at a time, to brown it. Watch constantly. Once all the pieces are browned, add the onion/curry sauté to the browned chicken – this may lower the pan temperature a little. Once the pan temperature is raised again, add the diced tomatoes. The pan should steam at this point! Again the pan temperature will drop. Once the mixture is boiling, add at least 2 tablespoons of ngouc mam. (alternatively, you could use one chicken or beef broth bouillon cube). Mix well. Slowly add the drained yellow peas, approx. ½ cup at a time. The temperature of your wok/pan/etc. will definitely drop. Constantly stir, and watch! The goal is to get the mixture boiling again. Once the mixture is simmering, transfer to slow cooker. Allow to cook for 2 ½ or 3 hours, or less – if you would like the toor dal to be grittier.

Serve over white rice, with lima beans and spinach to add color and flavor contrast.

P.S. Caveat to readers: let me say here that adding meat of any kind is not traditional – AT ALL. As in, the addition of meat to toor dal may be akin to listening to fingernails on the chalkboard for those raised eating it.



One response to “ain’t your mama’s Toor Dal: recipe & notes

  1. Pingback: chicken curry command performance…despite bachelor’s kitchen disease! « Dude, where’s the stove?

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