Dal Soup

Dal Soup

This Dal Soup recipe was inspired by the recipe for Red Lentil Soup from the Global Stomach. But the Global Stomach’s recipe calls for curry leaves which is not a common ingredient. So I came up with a recipe for which the curry leaves are optional (but recommended).

According, to Julie Sahini, one of my favorite experts on Indian cooking, curry leaves are “this decade’s lemon grass.” You can find packages of fresh fragrant curry leaves on tender stems in the fruit and vegetable section of Asian markets. And, some of my green-thumb Indian friends even grow curry leaf plants in pots — outdoors in the summer and indoors in the winter.

While you can make this Dal Soup without curry leaves and it will taste great, if you make it with curry leaves, I think you will like it even more. Just throw about 20 leaves into the pot along with the onions. You do not have to remove the curry leaves from the soup. (I don’t eat them, myself, but I understand that they are edible as they are featured in recipes such as this cabbage and curry leaf recipe where you would, of course, eat the curry leaves.)

For more on curry leaves, my current favorite herb, see Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages and this Washington Post blog. And though, as it states in this blog, the Indian culinary expert, Julie Sahini, does not recommend freezing fresh curry leaves, I think it’s OK for a recipe like this where there are so many different flavors. For directions, on how to freeze fresh curry leaves, see Chowhound.

Note: The links in the ingredient list below will take you to Monamifood blog posts that give details about some of the health benefits of a particular ingredient and also, when applicable, how cooking and storage affect the bio-active components of that ingredient.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4  medium tomatoes, chopped or 1, 15-ounce can diced organic tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Serrano chiles, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups vegetable broth
8 cups water
20 curry leaves (optional)
2 cups masoor dal (split red lentils), picked over and rinsed until the water runs clear
° Split red lentils can be found in Asian supermarkets, Indo/Pak grocery stores,       or Whole Foods (bulk section).

To pass at the table

Foods to pass at the table


  • coconut milk (light coconut milk is preferable)
    • Just a tablespoon or so per serving is plenty. It adds creaminess but not a lot of fat.
  • lemon wedges
  • crushed red pepper (the kind you sprinkle on pizza)
  • chopped fresh coriander

And if you have some steamed or lightly roasted kale on hand…just pass thre kale, too! Ladle this soup over the kale for a great beans and greens dish! (Hey, this is my favorite lunch these days!)

Add the olive oil to a large stock pot and heat over medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and saute the the onion garlic mixture for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato, tomato paste, curry powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, black pepper, chile, salt and saute for another few minutes.

Add the vegetable broth, water, curry leaves (if using), and masoor dal, and continue cooking the mixture over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a simmer, partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the mixture simmer gently for 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

To thicken the soup after it’s cooked: Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree some of the soup, and then mix the pureed soup with the non-pureed soup;

At the table, pass the coconut milk, lemon, red pepper, and cilantro, as well as the steamed kale, if desired.

P.S. Asian supermarkets in the Northern Virginia area
Planning a trip to one of the Asian supermarkets in the Northern VA area? My favorites are: Super H and Hanaro. I’ve also heard that Lotte is a great place. Grand Mart is just OK in my opinion. And…if you go to Super H or Hanaro on a Saturday or Sunday morning (or maybe afternoon), it’s quite an adventure, because there lots people passing out samples to try! (I haven’t been to Lotte so I can’t vouch for the supply of samples there…)

Enjoy and be healthy!


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