Sri Lankan Style Masur Dal Flavored with Tamarind, Curry Leaves & Coconut Milk

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by Sara Hafiz on January 3, 2011

I don’t know about you but dal is a comfort food to me, not to mention a healthy & tasty choice of protein. One of my new year’s resolutions are that I will consume less meat and more veggies, beans & lentils. If you think about it it’s not such a difficult task, since lentils are so versatile and there’s a wide variety of lentils out there.

I recently met a friend for lunch who had traveled to Sri Lanka for business. Of course I did not ask my friend about what they were doing in Sri Lanka, the ONLY thing I was interested was in the Sri Lankan cuisine. I listened carefully as she described the spicy curries of Sri Lanka, cooked in coconut milk and flavored with the aromatic curry leaves and tangy tamarind. She also talked about tasty sambols which is a tasty condiment to curries, spicy fish curries & fruit curries are also very popular in Sri Lanka.

I was intrigued to learn that Sri Lankan cuisine is much spicier than South Indian cuisine and many spicy Sri Lankan curries are known to be the hottest in the world.

My mouth was watering and wheels were turning in my head. I started thinking about making a dish with coconut milk, tamarind & curry leaves. Curry leaves are the most flavorful aromatic leaves, you can find them in any Indian grocery stores in your area. They are also perfect for tempering {tadka} the dal recipes. I decided to make the Masur dal aka split red lentils which are available in most of the supermarkets. I also use the red lentils in soup recipes like the Turkish lentil soup.

Tamarind gives the dal a sweet tangy taste which goes well with the creaminess of the coconut milk. I like to use a block of fresh tamarind block rather than the paste, it has much fresher tamarind flavor which is a tasty & tangy addition to the Masur Dal recipe.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen January 3, 2011 at 6:03 am

Coconut milk, tamarind and curry leaves are one of my fav base for curries. The sweetness of milk, the sourness of tamarind and the lovely taste and aroma of curry leaves provides a perfect balance. And oh yes, I have a Srilankan neighbor and sure as hell its way spicy than Indian cuisine :) but in a good way. Great job Sara!

Tracy Carolyn January 3, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Yum! I was looking for a new Dal recipe – I’ll have to try this!

Delishhh January 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Oh i am a huge curry fan, i always make Thai curry and this sounds very similar except without the lime. I think i might just have to save this recipe. Happy New Year!

Faith January 3, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Daal is a favorite in my house too, and I can never resist coconut milk or curry either! This looks wonderful, Sara!

Nadia January 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

mmmm coconut and tamarind! I should also use the tamarind block-too lazy hehe! Next time I make masur ki daal I’ll try the coconut milk in it!

Ameena January 3, 2011 at 9:57 pm

I was so excited when I saw your tweet about this post – I love tamarind and I love Dal! My dal recipe is usually so haphazard so I’m thrilled to find something I can actually print out and follow along. My husband will thank you too, I’m sure!

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 is off to a great start for you!

tasteofbeirut January 4, 2011 at 2:39 am

Well I would love this dish, but what I am awed by is your photography! Sri Lanka sounds exotic and far but I have seen photos of amazing beaches.
Thanks for your adorable comment regarding the video. It made my day!

rebecca January 4, 2011 at 4:50 am

this looks like the perfect dal :-)

Deeba January 4, 2011 at 4:50 am

Creamy and ever so delicious, you’ve taken our humble masoor dal to dizzy Exciting heights Sarah. Love the flavours you’ve added…mmm!!
Happy New Year sweet Sarah, and thank you for making the year gone by so delicious! xo

Sara January 4, 2011 at 5:10 am

Thanks guys! I appreciate your sweet comments!

Thanks Kulsum, Tracy, delishh, Faith, Nadia, Ameena, Joumana, Rebecca, & Deeba! xoxoxo

Jamie January 4, 2011 at 7:53 am

Gorgeous, both the delectible dish and the photos (as usual!)! I adore dal but this is a stunning version I would love to try with the flavors I usually don’t add to my simple dal. Wonderful recipe! I so love your exotic cuisine! Wishing you and yours a wonderful, joyous, healthy 2011, dear Sara!

Karen January 4, 2011 at 5:32 pm

This looks fantastic!! I’ll be in Sri Lanka in two weeks, and I can’t wait to try all their delicious curries and breads. Glad I stumbled upon your beautiful blog, Sara. Love your pictures and recipes. :-)

Eliana January 4, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Oh goodness! This flavor combination is to die for. I wish I was enjoying a big bowl of this right now!!!!

Anna Johnston January 4, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hi Sara, great to connect with you :) What an awesome recipe, I’ve not had a huge amount of Sri Lankan cuisine foods, so this is so interesting for me, love the spices in this, the flavour must be over the top. Looking forward to reading more of your posts….. ‘Ill be back’ :)

Lael Hazan @educatedpalate January 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Your photos are so beautiful that I just keep stairing at them. They make the dish come alive. I’m starting to expand my repitoire of curries. I must admit I usually have them at other people’s homes or restaurants. However… this looks like a keeper that I should try myself. Thank you

Winnie January 5, 2011 at 1:31 pm

This looks incredible- my kind of recipe, for sure. I have never used tamarind pulp but really want to give it a try. I am going to have to seek out the curry leaves, too :)

Joy January 5, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Oh Sara what beautiful photos — the colors of the place mat really brings out the characteristics of the dish: vibrant, earthy and comforting! Happy New year lovely looking forward to your posts this year :)

Tanvi January 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm

This dal recipe sure is a wonderful balance of flavors.more of a South Indian kind of dals where tamarind is used for sourness & curry leaves for tempering.Use of coconut milk is new to me but sound promising! Would love to try this out.Thanks for the recipe! I love your colorful mats.

dinners & dreams January 7, 2011 at 2:18 am

Dal is so delicious. I love all the Indian spices that go in it. Magical! A Sri Lankan version sounds interesting. The sea shell spoon is adorable.

Nisrine

Renu January 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Hi Sara,

I’m from Sri Lanka. When I found out your blog, I felt really happy that you have posted a very famous dish in our country. We cook dhal in various ways. The recipe you given well goes with rice or with a good crusty bread :)

Sara January 8, 2011 at 12:11 am

Thanks Jamie, Eliana, Anna, Cookie, Lael, Winnie, Joy, Tanvi, Nisrine, & Renu! :)

Prerna@IndianSimmer January 8, 2011 at 3:07 am

Dude that dal looks AMAZING!! But where do u get all your silverware from? They look so traditional and gorgeous.

bunkycooks January 8, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I have not tried Dal, but this dish does sound delicious. I love these flavors. I am also going to work on eating less meat in the new year and far more veggies.

foodwanderings January 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Hi Sara, Love this Sri Lankan version of Masur dahl! Coconut, curry leaves, tamarind, yum! Great job with the photograpy and post as always! Shulie

Sara January 8, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Thank you Prerna, Gwen & Shulie! xo

Bridgett January 10, 2011 at 6:34 am

What a delicious looking Dal. I need to follow your lead and learn to make more dishes such as this.

Caro January 11, 2011 at 12:02 am

I made this dish last week after finding you through stumbleupon – so glad I did this is a lovely recipe! I actually had leftovers which I made into little croquettes the next day, as the mixture firms up enough to be panned.

shayma January 12, 2011 at 9:38 pm

sara this is so delicious- esp with the addition of imli. love the photos. x shayma

Soma January 18, 2011 at 3:04 am

Masur dal is a my favorite dal. I grew up eating a lot of it, almost everyday. Sara this recipe is just amazing! Love the flavors and the sweet tangy taste. and what wonderful photographs!

Lani February 26, 2011 at 2:35 am

I just made this recipe and it is just fantastic. The flavors meld together so well. I wound up eating it up like soup without any rice or bread! I urge everyone who has seen this recipe to try it if they haven’t already.

Onetribegourmet is very correct about different kinds of masur dal. Mine happened to take much longer to cook and also needed a lot more water. At first I thought it was some reaction with the tamarind but later realized that I had opened a brand new packet of masur lentils and these must not get as soft as the other packets I’ve used. This packet of lentils may need a little hand blender action in order to get soft! Just FYI.

Sarah April 26, 2012 at 6:07 pm

I made a coconut and lentil soup a few weeks ago and wanted to know more about it. You certainly have an eye for food styling, simply gorgeous photographs and very interesting recipe with the use of tamarind paste and curry leaves.

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