Chef's Recipes

Tarka dal

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for tarka dal by Indian Tukka restaurant in Melbourne.

  • 20 mins preparation
  • 55 mins cooking plus soaking
  • Serves 6
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Tarka dal
“A recent visit to Indian Tukka had my daughter exclaiming ‘Wow – holy beautiful dal!’ Would you request the recipe for our family? We live in Alice Springs and can only have this wonderful dish when we’re in Melbourne.”
Kerry and Mark Delahunty, Alice Springs, NT
To request a recipe, write to Fare Exchange, , GPO Box 4088, Sydney, NSW 2001, or email us. All requests should include the restaurant’s name and address or business card, as well as your name and address.


  • 400 gm (2 cups) channa split lentils (see note)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 1½ tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cm piece ginger (10gm), finely grated
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 35 gm (¼ cup) raw cashews, finely ground
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp each garam masala and ground chilli
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 45 gm ghee
  • 125 ml (½ cup) pouring cream
  • 3 long green chillies, halved lengthways (optional)
  • To serve: coarsely chopped coriander and roti


  • 1
    Rinse lentils in cold water, place in a bowl, cover with cold water, soak 30 minutes, drain.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add half the mustard seeds and half the cumin seeds and stir until starting to pop (1-2 minutes). Add garlic, ginger, curry leaves and half the onion, stir occasionally until soft (7-10 minutes). Add tomato, cashews, turmeric, garam marsala, ground chilli, coriander and 125ml water and stir occasionally until thick (3-5 minutes). Add lentils and enough water to cover (about 1.6 litres), bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and stir occasionally until lentils are tender (30-35 minutes).
  • 3
    Meanwhile, heat ghee in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add remaining spices and stir occasionally until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add remaining onion, stir occasionally until golden (7-10 minutes). Stir onion mixture through lentils, add cream and chilli, bring to the boil, season to taste and serve immediately scattered with coriander, with roti to the side.


Channa split lentils are available from select health-food shops. If unavailable, substitute yellow split peas.