Monday, March 10, 2008

Five-Lentils Panchmel Dal

Casting a critical eye over my blog I find that it severely lacks one of the most basic everyday fare that I make on a regular basis regardless of season, and one that has endless combinations. I even knew the reason for that, and have known it for a long time now.

The food I am talking about is 'dal', and the reason is that dals have been the most challenging to photograph for me. No matter what I do, they all end up looking almost the same after they are cooked - just a big yellow something in a bowl, which makes it rather difficult to convey some of the amazing nuances of flavor that each dal has, despite all of them looking alike.

Panchmel Dal: the five dals
The beautiful colors of the five dals, very photogenic before cooking.

I am not a fan of styling food just for the purpose of taking photographs, even though I admire those who can do it well. I prefer to take pictures of food as it is meant to be served or eaten. The drawback is that this isn't the best way to showcase the food, and after all, exhibiting food in all its glory is one of the objectives of a food blog. One of the lessons here is that looks are not the best judge of taste.

Undaunted, I am going to post about dals anyway, because I know I have waited too long to post some things just because I did not have a good picture to accompany. They might all look similar, but each one will have a strong character, a distinctive taste, and a lot more than what meets the eye.

This particular dal is one of my favorites, and yet I make it only once in a while, when I want a change from the usual dals. Panch means five, and hence the name, which approximately means 'five together'. The added flavors to this dal are simple, but its unique taste comes from the combination of dals, which is different from either of them cooked individually. There is also a barely noticeable variation in textures of each dal, which is interesting. Along with a good drizzle of fresh ghee at the end, and white rice to accompany, this is excellent comfort food that doesn't need anything else alongside.

Panchmel Dal: 5 bean dal

Minor styling with wedges of lime, which are not usually tucked into the dal, but served alongside to be squeezed over the dal. The sprig of cilantro is chopped fine and scattered into the dal, optionally.

panchmeL DAL

Number of servings can vary a lot, from 4-8 depending on whether the dal is eaten as a main dish with rice or whether it is a part of a meal with other dishes.


1/4th cup each of toor dal, masoor dal, moong dal, chana dal, and split urad dal
1/4th teaspoon turmeric

2 Tablespoons oil
big pinch of mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
2 Tablespoons jaggery
2-4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/4th lime, plus extra wedges


Rinse and drain the dals together a few times until the water runs clear. Cook all the dals together with 1/4th teaspoon turmeric in 5 cups of water. I use a pressure cooker with my usual 3-whistle regulation. Let the pressure drop.

Stir the dals together with a whisk, and add salt to taste. Add more water if needed to make sure it is of a pouring consistency.

Heat the oil a large and wide saucepan, and add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, turmeric, cumin seeds and the rest of the spices. Stir quickly, add the dal, and bring it to a gentle boil. Stir in jaggery until it dissolves. Add chopped cilantro and squeeze the lime on top just before serving.


Some of the variations I have tried are adding curry leaves, or a little bit of finely chopped onion, and using tamarind or lemon instead of lime. Somehow, I like the tartness of lime better in this case.


Asha said...

I LOVE it! Delcious ad nutritios!
I was going to make this for RCI- Rajashtan but change of plan now!:D

musical said...

I love this daal! and don't worry, your writing beautifully conveys the myriad flavors and the aromas of any dish you make, effortlessly and always :).

TheCooker said...

Great looking daal.
Your food and pictures need no extra embellishments.

Cynthia said...

Tut, tut, tut, you had not made dal and featured it on this blog before?! :O Thank you for remedying the situation (lol) and you did it in such fine style - 5 lentil dal and a little bit of food styling! Go with your bad self. I LOVE DAL!

Richa said...

dal looks so thick and lusciousl, love the addn of gul :)

i like ur version with the quick tadka, no chopping involved, except perhaps the lime for minor styling ;)

Namratha said...

Daal looks delicious, love the first pic showing the daals. Very helpful for people like me who know only a few!! :D

LG said...

Thick n nice loaded with goodness, I liked it. Pics look awesome.

sra said...

I've always found your pictures beautiful, ET!

Purnima said...

On my must try this week itself..list :D thaaaaaaaaaaat good n nutritious!Big thks for sharing!

evolvingtastes said...

Dear all, (I hope you don't mind if I don't address you individually this time), thank you for your kind words of appreciation, kindness, and encouragement. This simple dal (but well-styled, remember? :)) is a good one to have in the arsenal if you cook dals frequently and like to have a variety.

bee said...

you have an e-mail from us.

Anamika:The Sugarcrafter said...

hey evolving taste, your post is an eye-opener..good work girl with panchmeL DAL..Now, i assume you must certainly post something on on panch phauran (chauk)..too !

Purnima said...

I tried this daal yesterday, it tasted absolutely delicious, hot and garnished with lemon n coriander leaves!Panchamel is a winner n keeper from now on! Thanks for sharing!!

evolvingtastes said...

Thanks Purnima, that makes me so happy! Hearing responses like yours is always immensely satisfying.

Kate / Kajal said...

i think its humanely impossible not to like dal ! I adore my pulses and simply love dal. I'm a dal / bread gal. i love bread with dal much more than rice. specially if the dal is nice n think like yours here. yum yum ...5 times the goodness here.

Pelicano said...

I've done the same as you: I've yet to post any dhal recipes on my blog because I wasn't pleased with the pics I took, though various ones are always on hand in my fridge. I even had some advice from a friend of mine: shape it into a duck! :-) But you did really well with this photo, and I've bookmarked the recipe to try soon.

evolvingtastes said...

Hi Pelicano, welcome here! Thanks. I'd tell you to post anyway, and will remember the duck shaping advice.

Mary said...

Dal is one of my favorite dishes! I also prefer not to style my food just for the sake of photographs. But nevertheless, I think your photos look great.

Anonymous said...

Cool! Bengalis prepare the five-mix dal too, but probably a little differently. My favorite is the arhar dal, as long as the tadka is prepared properly (like they do in the dhabas up North). :-)

evolvingtastes said...

Adding my own response to say that Richa tried this dal and wrote to me to say that she liked it. Hearing such responses is always wonderful!

evolvingtastes said...

Some belated responses:

Mary, your photos are always lovely, and without any styling too.

Shantanu, arhar is my top favorite too, but then, being a maharashtrian, that shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

प्रिया said...

I tried this dal today. What a keeper recipe! :)

evolvingtastes said...

प्रिया, how wonderful to hear that! I have been busy lately, and somewhat ignored my blog, I know. :-(

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