Trinidadian Dal

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves:


Appears in

Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad and Tobago

Sweet Hands

By Ramin Ganeshram

Published 2018

  • About

It seemed that a pot of dal was always simmering on a back burner of my father’s stove. For him, it was the equivalent of fast food because paired with the also-ever-present pot of white rice, it was a quick, hearty, and nourishing meal. Thus dal and rice is one of my first taste-memories. I recall standing by my father’s side with my mouth wide open like a baby bird waiting to taste what was on his plate. He often ate with his hands in the traditional Indian way. Using his fingers as a scoop he pushed the food inside my mouth. I remember enjoying the creaminess of the dal with a hint of garlic which he had pureed using an egg beater. These days I use a stick-blender or food processor to the same effect.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 cup dried yellow split peas
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
  • 1 small whole Scotch bonnet pepper or other hot red chili pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Add the ginger and garlic and fry, stirring, for about 30 seconds more. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the split peas, 2 cups of water, and the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Add the whole hot pepper. Simmer until the split peas are very soft, about 25 minutes, skimming foam from the top as necessary.
  3. Remove the hot pepper and puree the split peas using a hand (stick) blender or standing blender, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Serve hot over rice.