On a cold night, this dal is just what you’ll need to warm up. Not only is it warm and delicious, it is FULL of great flavor. The lentils get spice from serrano chiles (I amped it up a little with more than the recipe called for) and ginger, alongside the traditional coconut, garlic, cinnamon and cardamom flavors that you’ll find in dal.
My favorite part of this dish is the super flavor-packed kale that you heap on top. It is sauteed with mustard seeds and mixed with some of the onion/garlic/serrano mixture that forms the base of the dal, and hit with lime at the end. It gives just the right hit of acid and freshness from the greens, to offset the comforting lentils.
- If you don’t have cardamom pods, replace with a teaspoon or so of ground cardamom.
- It’s worth it to use coconut oil instead of olive or vegetable when sautéing for this recipe. It adds a much different undercurrent of flavor that you shouldn’t miss out on!
- Make sure you taste and salt the dal well to really bring out the flavor.
- If you like spice, add an extra chile!
Sri Lankan Dal With Coconut and Lime Kale
- 1 pound red lentils
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 small white onions, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¾ inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 green finger chiles or Serrano chiles, stemmed and finely sliced
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 large bunch kale (about 9 ounces)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 lime, juiced
- 7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) canned coconut milk
- Yogurt, for serving
- Rice, for serving
Wash the lentils in a strainer in cold water until the water runs clear, then place in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside. Bash the cardamom pods with the side of a knife so they crack open.
Put 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil into a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves. Fry for a minute, then add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are browning and soft. Add the garlic, ginger and green chiles and stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove a third of the mixture from the pot and set aside. (Leave the cinnamon stick behind.)
Drain the lentils and add to the pot, along with the turmeric and 4 1/4 cups of hot water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Once they are boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and creamy.
While the lentils are simmering, chop the kale into thin strips and discard the thicker stems. Put the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil into a lidded frying pan (keep the lid off for now) over medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop, add the reserved onion mixture and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the kale, shredded coconut and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Stir-fry for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of hot water and put the lid on to steam the kale for 2 minutes, or until soft and tender. Add the lime juice and stir.
When the lentils are soft and creamy, add the coconut milk and remaining salt and simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from the heat, and pick out and discard the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. To serve, ladle into bowls and divide kale over the top. Serve with a side of yogurt and rice.