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A bowl of Arhar ki Khatti Dhal on a yellow background, a mauve Lucknowi chikan saree and a novel based in Lucknow
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Arhar Ki Khatti Dal - Lucknowi Khatti Dal - Sour Lentil Stew

Arhar ki Khatti Dal (a sour lentil stew) made in the traditional Lucknowi style from Toor dal (Pigeon pea lentils) cooked in tamarind extract and garnished with raw peanuts soaked in water, tempered in ghee with onion, garlic, and chilli
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Sujata Shukla


For Cooking Arhar Dal - Slit pigeon pea Lentils

  • 1 cup Arhar dal /split pigeon pea lentils/ Tuvar Dal
  • ¼ teaspoon Haldi/ Turmeric Powder
  • 2 cups water For Pressure cooking.
  • 1 teaspoon dhania/ coriander powder
  • ½ teaspooon red chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ginger and garlic pounded together /coarse paste
  • ½ cup lukewarm water to add to the dal if it becomes dry

For Tamarind extract

  • 1 ½ tablespoons tamarind / a Lemon sized ball of Tamarind
  • ½ cup water for soaking the tamarind

For Tempering/ Tadka

  • 1 tablespoon ghee / clarified butter
  • 1 teaspoon jeera
  • ¼ teaspoon kala jeera/ black cumin seeds (check that you are using kala jeera and not nigella/ kalaonji as very often kalaonji is sold as black jeera and the two are different spices)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup onion sliced
  • 1-2 dry red chilli
  • teaspoon asafoetida hing powder about a pinch
  • 1 tablespoon curry leaves shredded

For Garnish

  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves minced
  • 2 tablespoons raw peanuts
  • ½ cup water to soak the peanuts


Preparations for making Arhar ki khatti dal

  • Pressure cook the dal: Rinse, drain and soak the arhar dal for 15 minutes. This step is optional, but I find it helps the dal cook faster and reach the consistency required. Add the haldi powder and water as in the ingredients list above 'For Cooking Arhar Dal'. Pressure cook for 1-2 whistles, and open the cooker only when it has cooled down - about 15 minutes after you have turned off the stove.The dal should be soft and well cooked. Strain the dal in a colander after opening the cooker, and reserve the dal water (don't discard it!) Mash the cooked dal using a wire whisk or wooden masher.
    Strain the cooked dal and reserve the dal water
  • While the dal is being cooked, complete the preparations: Soak the Tamarind in water for at least 15 minutes. If the tamarind is rolled into a ball, it is easier to subsequently discard. After it has soaked as above, squeeze the tamarind to extract the maximum juice, and remove from the water. We are using just ½ a cup of water so that we get a thick extract. Set the tamarind extract aside till required.
  • Soak peanuts in water as in the ingredients list for Garnish. Allow to soak till required for garnish.
  • Mince onion, coriander leaves and shred the curry leaves. You will find we are going to use garlic in two places while cooking - once as a ginger garlic paste and once with the whole cloves. For the ginger garlic paste (1 tablespoon as in the ingredients list), pound together about 1 cm piece of ginger and 2 cloves of garlic in a mortar and pestle so you get a coarse paste. Gently crush the cloves of garlic that you are going to use in the tempering/ tadka, keeping them whole.

How to make Lucknowi Arhar Ki Khatti Dal

  • Set a pan on the stove and add the strained and mashed dal, coriander and chilli powders as per the ingredients list. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt. You can add more salt towards the end if required. Add the tamarind extract. Add the ginger garlic paste. Stir it all together.
    Add Ginger garlic paste
  • Bring the dal to a boil and then simmer on low for 15 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has gone.As the water level reduces, add the reserved dal water slowly to the insides of the pan so that it gets warm by the time it reaches the dal, and blends in readily. Keep stirring frequently as the dal is likely to catch at the bottom of the pan and char/burn. Keep some lukewarm water ready. If the dhal again looks dry, add the water a little at a time to the insides of the pan and stir it in. You want a fluid and yet thick dal when you are done. Taste for salt and add more if required. Remove the pan from the stove and immediately transfer the arhar ki khatti dal to a serving dish, so that it stops cooking further.

To Temper/ add Tadka to the Dal

  • Heat Ghee (the ghee really brings out the flavours of the dal, so use upto 2 tablespoons). Keeping the stove on medium heat, add the jeera/ cumin seeds, let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the kala jeera/ black cumin, let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the garlic pods that you crushed and kept ready. Sauté till they begin to darken (10-20 seconds) keeping them whole.
  • Add the minced onions, sauté for 3-5 minutes till they begin to brown. Add the red chilli and saute, turning it over so that all sides get scalded. You may add the red chilli before the garlic if that is your usual method. Add the asafoetida/hing powder. Add the curry leaves. I always shred them first so that they have a better chance of being consumed rather than be left on the side of the plate. Pour the tadka over the dal.
    Making the tempering for the arahar ki khatti dal


  • Remove the peanuts from the water in which they are soaking, dry them with a clean napkin or tissue and garnish the dal. Add minced coriander leaves. Serve the dal hot, with basmati rice or roti.