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May 31, 2015 / Aware of the Void

Nivetha’s World Famous Sri Lankan Style Dhal


When I stopped eating meat a few years ago this quickly became one of the mainstays of my diet. It is very tasty and super fast to cook. Like the Chilli Paneer I tend to have the main ingredients in the house all the time so it’s a handy dish for the days when I’m unsure what to cook. It’s high in protein and I tend to make a bowl of this if I am making any other curries as the cooking process for a lot of things all start with the same basic ingredients.

My friend Nivetha is leaving Ireland very soon to return to her life in Singapore and a great sadness has descended on cook island. I’m so glad she showed me how to cook this dish as it means every time we eat this at home it will be like having her around for dinner again.


  • 2 x cups of Red Lentils – I buy these is an Asian shop as “Masoor Dhal”
  • 1 x medium sized onion (or two small, 4 really small, half a large one or one quarter of a giant one)
  • 3 x cloves of garlic
  • 2 x teaspoons of black mustard seeds
  • 3 x curry leaves fresh is great but dried is ok also
  • 200ml x Coconut Milk
  • 1 x tea spoon curry power – I use hot but use as per your taste
  • Oil for frying
  • A lime


  • Rinse the dhal in cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Add the dhal to a pan and add just enough water to cover it – this will need to be topped up as the dhal cooks but it is better to add the water gradually than to lose the flavour by drowning the lentils at the start
  • Turn on the heat – as the dhal cooks you will start to see a white foam appear. When I was a little girl growing up in Sri Lanka it was my job to use a slotted spoon to remove this foam. It is entirely optional – personally unless there is mountains of it I leave it as I have taken the view that it might contain that delicious lentil flavour.
  • While the dhal cooks chop the onions and garlic
  • Heat a frying pan and add some oil.
  • Fry the mustard seeds until they start to pop and scatter all over the cooker. This releases their aroma and rich flavour – I wear eye protection for this bit.
  • Fry the onions, garlic and curry leaves until cooked “nicely”. I still have no idea what cooked “nicely” means but this was the advice I was given so I’m passing it on.


  • At this stage your dhal will be just about cooked – I like it with a bit of a bite and texture to it so I believe that technically I might be slightly undercooking it so do it as per your tastes.


  • Add the fried mixture to the cooked dhal adding the curry powder.
  • Add the coconut milk gradually tasting as you go until it reaches a level you enjoy. It adds richness which if overdone can hide the flavour of the dhal.
  • You may wish to add salt also but I find that many of the off the shelf curry powders have plenty in them already and its better to just leave some on the table for people to adjust for their own taste.
  • IMG_5047A good twist of lime right at the end is the secret ingredient that really adds a zest of freshness to this dish.

I tend to serve this with basmati rice and have been know to just sit dipping cheese and onion crisps into it while I vegetate on the sofa. It is always a nice one to have along side other curry dishes and according to my good pal Nivetha anything less than 5 curries its not really a meal anyway.

Let me know if you try this or if you have your own alternative version.


Leave a Comment
  1. grumpytyke / May 31 2015 12:10 pm

    I love dhal and this looks great though simple. I’ll be trying it soon.

    • Aware of the Void / Jun 2 2015 1:26 pm

      Please let me know how it works out for you and I really hope you enjoy it.

  2. Aware of the Void / Jun 11 2015 6:57 am

    Note to self – make more dhal


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