Dhal bhat tarkari

Lentil, rice & vegetable curry

While trekking in the Himalayas, this was our staple meal: tasty, filling and full of carbs to fuel the ascent. The individual words simply translate as ‘lentil’, ‘rice’ and ‘vegetable curry’, but dhal bhat tarkari is a foundation of Nepalese cuisine — a basic combination that takes on innumerable configurations based on season, region and household preferences, and is a great framework for healthy, well-balanced vegetarian meals. Feel free to experiment with the vegetables, lentils, spices and flavourings.

Preparation 25 minutes
Cooking 40 minutes

Ingredients

Dhal

Lentil Soup

  • 3 tablespoons ghee or virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves picked
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Indian green chilli, finely chopped
  • 250 g (9 oz/1 cup) chopped tomatoes
  • 200 g (7 oz/1 cup) red lentils, washed twice and drained
  • ½ bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped

Bhat

Rice

  • 400 g (14 oz/2 cups) basmati rice, red rice, organic brown rice, or other rice of your choice
  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) water
  • a pinch of salt

Tarkari

Vegetable Curry

  • 3 tablespoons ghee or virgin coconut oil
  • 1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves picked
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3–4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2.5 cm (1 inch) knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 small potatoes, cut into cubes
  • ½ head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ½ bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 2 lemons or limes, cut into wedges

Method

For the dhal, heat the ghee or coconut oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they start to splutter, add the curry leaves. Next, add the ground spices and stir for about 30 seconds to lightly toast them.

Immediately stir in the onion and chilli and cook, stirring, for 3–4 minutes, or until the onion is cooked through and translucent. Add the tomatoes and allow to cook down for a minute or two.

Stir in the lentils and 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium–low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils break down. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice, using a rice cooker or the absorption method.

For the tarkari, heat the ghee or coconut oil in a wok or large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry leaves. When they stop popping, add the coriander, cumin and turmeric and stir for about 30 seconds to lightly toast the spices. Stir in the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and allow to cook down for a minute or two.

Add the potato and cauliflower and stir to heat them through. Stir in 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water and season with salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium–low and simmer for 8–10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through and tender. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Just before serving, stir in the chopped coriander.

Dhal bhat tarkari is typically served on a metal serving platter known as a thali, with a bowl of dhal, a bowl of vegetable curry and a scoop of rice in the middle.

Serve with lemon or lime wedges, and condiments such as the Fruit chaat.