Easy-peasy lentil curry – Dhansak – a Spicy Parsi favourite


Brown rice with meat balls eaten with Dhansak Daal
                                                                                                     Dhansak rice with meat balls

A newly married nephew was bringing his wife home for an informal meal;  I asked myself what do I cook ? The couple  had just spent the last fortnight dining at the most exclusive restaurants and had sampled all the delights of various cuisines. I was stumped. Suddenly I came up with brainwave. Why not give them dhansak – a spicy lentil curry? 

Dhansak is the hearty mixed daal (lentil)and vegetable curry that is typically Parsi. Most Parsis I know have this every Sunday afternoon after which they have a long,lazy siesta. Each family has its own closely guarded recipe but Parsis being the generous community that they are, gladly share it with the world.

My own recipe is an adaptation of the original, tweaking not only the ingredients but also the texture. Unlike the Paris dhansak which is passed through a blender to get a smooth, velvety consistency, I prefer to churn it with a wooden cream churner instead. This brings the mixture together while retaining the rough texture of a hearty daal. 

So here’s what you will need to make dhansak daal : 

  • 250 g meat cut into cubes or chicken legs cut into two
  •  1/3 cup each of Toor dal, Masoor daal and moong daal
  • 100 g Doodhi cut
  • a handful  of Methi leaves
  •  2 large Tomato chopped
  •  1 small Brinjal cut into pieces
  • 2 medium Onions chopped
  • 1 tspn Garlic ginger paste
  • 1 tspn Turmeric powder
  • 1 tspnRed chilli powder
  • 2 tspns Coriander powder
  • 1 1/2 tspnCumin powder
  • 1 tspn Garam masala
  • 2 tspns Dhansak masala ( if you have this, omit the coriander powder and cumin powder)
  • 1/2 tspn Methi seeds
  • 3 tbspns Ghee

What to do :

  1. Heat the oil/ghee in a pressure cooker and brown the onion. Then add the garlic ginger paste, masala powders and cook till the aroma is released.
  2. Then add the tomato and cook further.
  3. Add the daals along with the vegetables and just enough water so that the daal can cook.
  4. When the daal is done, mash together with a cream churner or run it through the blender.
  5. Add the cooked meat/chicken and bring to a boil.
  6. Before serving , garnish with chopped coriander and crisp fried onion.

Since half my family is vegetarian and the other half is not, I prefer to cook the meat separately from the daal. So to cook the meat, I wash and put the meat/chicken in a pressure cooker with 1/2 chopped onion, a clove of garlic, 2 peppercorns , 2 cloves and a 1/2 ” stick of cinnamon. Adding just a pinch of salt and some water, I allow the meat/chicken to cook for 5-6 whistles so that it really cooks well. After the dhansak daal is done, I add the pieces of meat to the daal and bring to the boil once again.

The authentic dhansak daal is also sweetened with Sugar that rounds off the rough edges. However, I omit sugar in my cooking to accommodate my diabetic husband.

Dhansak daal is served with brown rice and kebabs.

To make the rice you will need

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 2 tspns sugar
  • 1  2′ piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 2 tbspns ghee.

What to do

  1. Wash the rice and let it soak for 1/2 an hour.
  2. Heat the ghee in a pan and brown the onion. Add the sugar and when it caramelises add 1 1/2 cups water and  spices.
  3. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the flame and continue cooking till the water is absorbed and rice is cooked.
  4. Sprinkle some fried onion on rice and meat kebabs before serving


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An accidental cook who likes to travel, read, watch movies and do yoga. Currently busy with full time granny duties.

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