the taste space

Dal Bhat (Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on August 29, 2011


My friend will be hiking up to the Mount Everest base camp in a few weeks. Last month, Rob and I joined her for a morning weekend hike starting at Hilton Falls. Rob picked out a nice trail. Just a short 8km hike, he told us. It will probably take 2 hours.

I love hiking, but let’s just say that I was woefully unprepared for this hike.

Never go unprepared, let’s just put it at that…

However, this wasn’t an 8km 2 hour hike.

It turned out to be a rocky 13km hike that took 4.5 hours!

I was hungry. And thirsty. And sore.. and tired, because I hadn’t slept well the night before, and by the end, cranky beyond belief. And positively pooped when we finished.  Good thing I am not hiking up Mount Everest just yet! Although hopefully I am ready for my upcoming hikes in Iceland {happy dance!}

Regardless, the scenery was nice, the route challenging and more importantly, we were able to chat about my friend’s impending trip.

Of course, we also talked about food. She’ll be eating a lot of dal bhat, which is Nepal’s traditional dish with lentils and rice.  She has yet to take us up on our offer to preview Nepalese cuisine, but after remembering what a nice, soothing dish it was, I asked Rob to make it when I was feeling unwell.


Rob did a double-take as well. Me? Asking for a curry when feeling sick? I wanted something soothing, comforting and porridge-like, akin to my quinoa and red lentil kitchari. I wanted something on the blander side but still with some flavour. Curries do not have to have lots of pepper (especially if you make them yourself), which is why dal bhat definitely hit the spot, and kicking off my week of beginner curries. Curries for people who don’t like curry.

This recipe was adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves, where we swapped in red lentils, decreased the water and fiddled with the chili peppers. Otherwise, the warming spices including coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom create a soothing palate. Quick cooking red lentils make this a nice meal that can easily be added to your meal rotation. Or if you are hiking up Mount Everest, a delicious meal to sustain you up the mountainous climb. As with all curries, the leftovers are even more wonderful as the flavours meld further and thicken up with the rice.


This is my submission to E.A.T. World for Nepal, to this week’s Potluck Party for Best Dish and to Ricki’s Summer Wellness Weekends.

Dal Bhat  (Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry)

1 cup red lentils, washed and drained
2.5-3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Aleppo chili (or 2 or 3 dried red chilies, stemmed, to taste)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves
one 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick
seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
5 or 6 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard or vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
brown rice, to serve

1. Put the red lentils in a large pot with 2.5-3 cups water and the turmeric and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce the heat to maintain a strong simmer, partially cover, and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are almost mushy. If you want this to be more liquidy, add more water.

3. Meanwhile, using a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder), grind together the chilies, coriander, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper.  Set aside.

4. When the lentils have finished cooking, add the salt and stir, then lower the heat to very low to keep it warm.

5. Heat a wok or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil, then the finely chopped onion and stir-fry for 5 minutes.

6. Add the ground spice blend and stir-fry for 2 more minutes.

7. Transfer the tempering mixture to the pot of dal.  Stir well and cook for 10 more minutes.  Serve hot with rice.

Serves 4.

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42 Responses

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  1. Rob said, on August 29, 2011 at 6:52 AM

    Sorry for taking you on a longer hike than expected. But, yes, indeedy, let’s consider it training for Iceland ;)

  2. Joanne said, on August 29, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    In my experience, hikes always take longer than you think they will. And danger always lurks around every corner. It’s a good thing you had this to come home to…comfort food is right!

  3. Rob said, on August 29, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    Heh, actually, we did the dal baht another night. After that hike Janet I went to her favourite raw vegan restaurant. That’s an even better form of comfort food! http://www.raw-aura.com/

    • Saveur said, on August 29, 2011 at 1:59 PM

      Nah, dal bhat has way more love infused into it when made by you… much better comfort food than Raw Aura. :)

  4. Rob said, on August 29, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Yay love!

  5. sprint2thetable said, on August 30, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    Nicely done on the hike! I would love to do more hiking myself.

    Does it matter the lentil you use? I have never used the yellow or red, but I just bought a huge container for french green lentils. They are just a littler harder, no? Love the flavors in this!

    • Saveur said, on August 30, 2011 at 8:15 AM

      Hey Laura, I don’t think the French lentils would work well for this dish because the texture would be completely off. Split peas could substitute, or split mung beans, though, because they get all creamy. You could try it with the French lentils, and the flavour would be great, just a different dish altogether. :) But I recommend saving your French lentils for salads, where the firm texture is important, such as this one: 11-Spice Salad with Capers and Currants.

  6. Priya said, on August 30, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    Looks super comforting..

  7. [...] Dal Bhat (Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry) [...]

  8. [...] had a sense of deja vu this weekend. But not in the typical I’ve already done this sense. Rather, a ‘why [...]

  9. cate said, on September 14, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    are the red lentils whole or split?

    • Saveur said, on September 14, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      I used split red lentils, which is what you normally find in regular grocery stores (sometimes they don’t differentiate).

  10. Ashley said, on September 16, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    This looks like such a nice comforting meal. I love red lentils.

  11. [...] Since I ate primarily raw while in Iceland (courtesy of a fabulous resto, Glo, right across from our hotel in Reykjavik), I was craving comforting, homey dishes upon my return. Thankfully, I had some meals that I had frozen before we left for vacation, and Rob eagerly whipped up a batch of dal bhat. [...]

  12. [...] I was forward-thinking and froze a bunch of meals before we left. I had dal bhat waiting for me upon my return as well as this delicious Iraqi-Inspired Eggplant and Seitan Stew [...]

  13. [...] you are combining dal bhat (or just dal since there is no rice) with baingan bharta. The dal, alone, was superb. The fenugreek [...]

  14. [...] Dal Bhat (Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry) [...]

  15. Mike said, on January 13, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Great quick meal new favorite lentil dish. Have been serving over a fragrant basmati rice.

  16. [...] culling meals from our favourites. Rob’s Repeater Recipes as I have tagged them on the site: Dal Bhat, Besan Chilla, Tamarind Lentils and this Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. Why mess with [...]

  17. [...] and sometimes I do, too. This is one of those dishes. Uber comforting.  While I describe this as Dal Bhat meets Mujaddara, this would likely scare off a bunch of people… Too many foreign words thrown [...]

  18. [...] a kitchen well-stocked for your return from vacation. While I have a few go-to recipes from pantry staples alone, and freezer meals help, when I come home from vacation, I am usually craving something [...]

  19. [...] pick recipes that are, let’s just say, a bit more indulgent. If Rob and I are cooking you dal bhat, one of our favourite meals, simple with lentils and rice, you know we have nothing to prove to you [...]

  20. Amanda said, on September 27, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    In memory of the delicious meal you made me one year ago this evening, I am recreating your dal…..YUM
    Let me tell you, this dal was so much better than the dal I ate over there…….

  21. [...] of beans+grains+greens. I eat it every day. These are staples throughout the world. I still have my favourite repeater curries, but like to mix things up with seasonal [...]

  22. Hannah said, on January 18, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    I love how simple your recipes are! Totally my style, though I’m still building up my spices stash :)

    • janet @ the taste space said, on January 20, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      Ah, I understand.. my spice drawer has overflow… But now I have to work with no ginger and regular paprika.. I forget what else I have run out of and don’t plan to restock. ;)

  23. Amanda said, on March 12, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    I am craving this right now!

  24. [...] and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian [...]

  25. [...] in the following days.  Cooking, instead of studying, seemed like a better idea to me, too. Dal bhat or creamy broccoli dal would have been a delicious comfort meal but now I had that arugula to [...]

  26. […] Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat) Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime Indian Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak) Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango (Mango Curry with Toor Dal) Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas (Baingan Bharta with Chickpeas) Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat Meets Baingan Bharta) Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew) Cauliflower, Spinach and Chickpea Balti Tamarind Lentils Indian Chickpea and Collard Roulade with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce Malai Koftas with Chaat Masala Baked Lemon Cilantro Pakoras […]

  27. […] have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make […]

  28. lucyfalls said, on August 2, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    I was just saying a few days ago that I want to learn to make a good dahl. Your recipe looks simple enough and and I bet it’s delicious. I’m gonna give it a try this week, I’ll get back to let you know how it turned out!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on August 6, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      Lucy, please let me know how it turns out. I have many simple and easy dals on my site. Once you get hooked, it might be hard to stop. ;)

      • lucyfalls said, on August 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        WOW. I just finished making this dal. Even though I’m not serving dinner for another couple of hours, I had to sit down right away and eat a bowl of it. I can’t even say how happy I am with the result. It’s SO GOOD. You’re right about getting hooked, I can already see myself wanting more as soon as this pot is finished.

        I made some vegan raita to go with it and when I publish the recipe in the next couple of days, I’ll link back here.

        Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

      • janet @ the taste space said, on August 8, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        YAYAYA! I am so happy for you. You’ve fallen for our favourite dal recipe!! :)

  29. Vegan Raita | Food and Games said, on August 8, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    […] recently decided to make my first dhal and chose this recipe from The Taste Space (it was fantastic!).  This provided a perfect opportunity to experiment with […]

  30. […] (via Dal Bhat (Nepalese Mountain Lentil Curry) | the taste space) […]

  31. […] There was a time, I did not like curry. Until we started experimenting at home and fell in love with dal bhat. […]

  32. […] authenticity, but I lay no claim to being an expert in traditional Indian cuisine (although we make killer dal). Iyer openly admits burfi is typically much more sweet than this recipe and is actually an […]


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