Khatti dal aka tangy lentils is one my absolute favorite dals to have with rice and fried fish. Its light, nutritious, delicious and has a subtle tang that makes it irresistible .
What is Khatti Dal?
Khatti literally translates to “sour”. But this dal is mildly sour, therefore it is “tangy” in English. It belongs to the Hyderabadi Cuisine in India/Pakistan and is popularly made with either red lentils (masoor dal) or split pigeon pea (arhar dal/tuvar dal). It’s eaten with rice and papar, and sometimes paired with other veggies, or meat dishes.
So many in my fam got married in Hyderabadi families, that we’ve enjoyed some amazing and authentic Hyderabadi food while growing up, and I love that I can share these recipes with you all now!
What is Khatti dal paired with?
Eaten with rice or roti, these are other things you can pair with khatti dal
- Papad and Achar like Carrot Pickles (gajar ka achar)
- Any vegetable curry like Lauki ki bhujia (Bottle Gourd mash)
- Spicy masala fish fry
- Spinach and potato cutlets
- Grilled Chicken Tikkas
- Lentils – We usually make this dal with red lentils which is the masoor ki dal. But people also make it with split pigeon pea or tuvar/arhar dal. The red lentils (masoor ki dal) is easily available in most stores around the world. Here in the middle east we also get another variety called the zero lentils, which is just red lentils not split open yet. And the moment you soak it in water, it’ll start splitting open and you can use it as regular red lentils.
- Tomato, onion and garlic – These are staples for any South Asian recipes. Only use fresh tomato for this recipe. No pure, paste or canned tomato.
- Powdered spices – turmeric powder, salt, red chili flakes, red chili powder, green chilies
- Tamarind (emli) – Tamarind is usually either available in blocks (with/without seed) or paste form. Whichever block form you use, always soak the tamarind in hot water for 10 mins and strain before using. Because there is always some amount of particles or grains in it even if it says seedless on the packet. If you use paste, you can directly use it by mixing in water. The quantity of tamarind depends on your own preference. You can always add more or less depending on how much tanginess you like
- Whole spices – mustard seeds, curry leaves, whole red chilies, cumin seeds
- Oil – Any neutral oil like vegetable oil is used for this recipe. You can also use coconut oil etc for your recipe, just remember these oils have a slight aroma and flavor of their own too.
- Coriander leaves – Chopped coriander leaves makes for the garnish.
Soaking the lentils
How long to soak lentils? This has become an ongoing debate amongst online communities mostly because someone somewhere read the word “antinutrients” online and freaked out. In simple words anti-nutrients are just some chemicals found in naturally occuring pulses like legumes, beans and lentils. And they are usually removed by soaking them before cooking and cooking itself. So some experts say you need to soak ALL types of pulses for 24 hours to get rid of the antinutrients. That in fact is not true. (you can read more about it here if you want). Lentils is are smaller in grain size and don’t need very long soaking time. 20 to 30 mins of soaking red lentils is more than enough as it has the smaller of grain size even in lentils. The rest of the antinutrients go away while you cook.
Cooking the Lentils
Cooking or boiling the lentils is fairly straightforward. Just chuck in all the spices and ingredients listed in the recipe card, along with water and soaked lentils. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the flame to medium and cover the pot and allow the dal to cook. You can also use a pressure cooker or your instant pot for this step.
TIP FOR STOVETOP COOKING:
Always leave the lid a little askew, or else the dal tends to boil over and drip from the pot.
Use a whisk or a dal ghotni to whisk together the dal and see if you have a smooth lentil mix. Once your dal is fully cooked, soak tamarind block in hot water in a bowl. Let it sit in hot water for 10 to 15 mins. You can use your hands or a spoon to make sure you extract all the pulp from the tamarind block. Strain water from the tamarind bowl and add it to your dal. You need to let the dal cook for at least 10 mins to allow the tamarind water to cook.
Making Baghar/Tadka – Tempering spices
While your tamarind is cooking in the dal, prepare your baghar for the dal. A baghar is a process of adding fried spices either as the first or as the last step in desi cooking. This dal uses a finishing tadka. You are going to fry some garlics, chilies, onions, cumin seeds, mustards seeds and curry leaves in oil until they are nice and golden.
Then you add them directly on top of your dal, which is off the flame now. There is no mixing involved. You simply let the oil and spices rest on top of the dal till you are ready to serve.
When you finally dish out the dal, you top it off with some chopped coriander and enjoy it with all the amazing combos mentioned above.
- For the reasons mentioned above, it’s always best to soak dal before using it. Discard the water that was used for soaking and use fresh water to boil the dal.
- DO NOT use a hand blender to make the dal more smooth. It changes the texture of the dal completely and turns it more like a soup. Just use a hand whisk or a haleem ghotni instead.
- You can use the microwave to reheat dals, but they are best heated on the stove.
- Let your dal sit in the pot for 10 mins after you’ve added your tarka/tempered spices. This helps in infusing the flavors in the dal.
What if I soak my lentils for longer than needed, will it cause problems?
There is nothing wrong with over-soaking your lentils. It will only reduce cooking time, that’s all. Let’s say you soaked your lentils and decided not to cook them that day, just change the water every 8 hours and let it sit in the fridge for the next day when you decide to cook it.
How long can the khatti dal stay in the fridge?
Dals are best for weekly meal plans because they can easily stay fresh in the fridge for upto 5 days. Simply reheat them in a pot and they will be good as new.
Can you freeze dal?
If you think you are not going to have the leftover dal right away, its always best to freeze it. If you are meal planning, freeze the dal BEFORE adding the tempered spices. Whenever you are ready to eat, simply thaw on the counter, heat it up and make fresh tempered spices to make the dal taste as good as freshly cooked one.
What can I do with leftover dal?
- I use all my leftover dals to make oats khichdi. Tangy lentil oats is a great recipe to utilize leftover dal.
- You can also add pieces of leftover roti or chapati in the dal and cook for 10 mins. Then eat it with a spoon.