I bring to you today the recipe for Hyderabadi Khatti Dal, a lentil broth from the city of the Nizams that is very simple and yet a burst of bold flavours. Have you heard of this dal before? I only had the pleasure of trying it out recently, and it was love at first bite. I have made this quite a few times over the past month already!
What is Hyderabadi Khatti Dal?
The term ‘khatti dal‘ literally translates into ‘sour lentil broth’, the sourness in question coming from the addition of tamarind. Originating in the city of Hyderabad, this dish can be made with either moong dal, toor dal or masoor dal or a mix of two or more varieties of lentils. What makes the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal supremely flavourful is the tempering of mustard, asafoetida, cumin, dry red chillies, curry leaves and finely chopped garlic that it is given. Can you imagine what a delight this dal would be?
The Hyderabadi Khatti Dal is traditionally served with steamed rice, with a vegetable or meat dish on the side. Tamarind and curry leaves are quite an interesting addition in dal, and I can’t help but thinking that is a cross between the regular Dal Tadka and Sambar. Whatever its origins might be, I’ll tell you that this is a keeper of a recipe – try it out once and I’m sure you’ll want to make it often.
Hyderabadi cuisine and me
My growing-up years in Ahmedabad were punctuated by yearly visits to Hyderabad, in the summer holidays. My uncle was stationed there, and all of us cousins would gang up at his place during our vacations, all set to spend endless days of leisure, cuddled and cosseted by our grandparents. I was too young then to go around exploring the local cuisine of the place, and the food cooked at home was mostly standard Tam-Brahm fare. The little I know today of Hyderabadi cuisine comes from a family friend, a lady from the city whose husband was transferred to Ahmedabad for a few years. I was in college then, a foodie in my own right, and she – let’s call her B Aunty – introduced me to the various fiery pickles, thokku, punugulu, chutneys and curries of Hyderabad, including her signature Gutti Vankaya Koora made with peanuts. A few trysts with ‘Andhra meals’ have happened in Bangalore, but I’m not sure of how close the food was to the authentic stuff.
This month, the members of the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge are exploring cuisine from the state of Telangana, where Hyderabad lies now. Telangana, carved out of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, is also home to cities like Secunderabad, Warangal, Khammam, Nizamabad, Nalgonda and Karimnagar, but for the sake of the challenge, I narrowed down my scope to Hyderabad only. Lately, the more I have been reading up about Hyderabadi food, the more I have been realising just how sparse my knowledge of it is, that I know nothing beyond what B Aunty taught me. Can you sense the stirring of desire for a food exploration trip to Hyderabad, in me? 🙂 I now understand there are a whole lot of differences between coastal Andhra fare and that of the arid Telangana, and I can’t wait to figure it out for myself!
About the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
The Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is a wonderful initiative, started by Priya of Priya’s Versatile Recipes. Every month, a bunch of us food bloggers get together to cook dishes from a certain part of India. I love how the challenge makes us take a closer look at the food from various Indian states, to dig deeper in search of the real thing, beyond what it is commonly perceived to be.
I chose to make Hyderabadi Khatti Dal for the challenge, because I am forever looking for new ways to serve dal and this beauty was right up my alley! I was paired with Narmadha of Nams Corner for the month, who assigned me two ingredients to cook with – toor dal and garlic. Luckily, both the ingredients fit right into the dal recipe I was planning to make, and that was that!
Do check out the beautiful Vankaya Pachi Pulusu that Narmadha prepared using the ingredients I assigned her.
How to make Hyderabadi Khatti Dal?
Here’s how I went about making this dal. I largely followed the recipe that Zaiqa has outlined, with a few little variations of my own.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
- 1/2 cup toor dal
- A small piece of tamarind
- 1 medium-sized tomato
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 2-3 green chillies
- A 1-inch piece of ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder or to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon oil or ghee
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 2 dry red chillies
- 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water.
2. Add enough fresh water to the toor dal to cover it fully. Pressure cook on high flame for 6-7 whistles or till fully cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.
3. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for 15-20 minutes or till it becomes soft.
4. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.
5. Peel the ginger. Julienne it. Keep aside.
6. Chop the tomato finely. Keep aside.
7. Peel the garlic cloves. Chop finely. Keep aside.
8. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. You may add in a little more water, if required. Keep the tamarind extract ready.
9. When the pressure from the cooker has entirely gone down, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash it well with a wooden buttermilk churner. Keep aside.
10. Take the chopped tomatoes, julienned ginger and slit green chillies in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in about 1/4 cup water and a little salt. Cook on high flame till the tomatoes turn mushy.
11. Now, add the cooked toor dal to the pan. Add in salt to taste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, tamarind extract, coriander powder and about 1 cup of water. Mix well.
13. Cook on high flame till the dal comes to a boil, then turn the flame down to medium. Let it cook on medium flame till it thickens, 4-5 minutes.
14. Meanwhile, we will prepare the tempering for the dal. Heat the oil or ghee in a small pan. Add the mustard, and allow it to pop. Add the cumin, dry red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida and finely chopped garlic. Turn heat down to low-medium, and let the ingredients cook for a minute or so. Switch off gas when the garlic starts to brown. Make sure the tempering does not burn. Add this tempering to the dal simmering in the other pan. Let everything cook together for about a minute. Switch off gas.
15. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Keep the pan covered for 10-15 minutes, for all the flavours to get nicely infused into the dal. Your Hyderabadi Khatti Dal is now ready to serve alongside roti-sabzi and/or steamed rice.
Tips & Tricks
1. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the dal to be.
2. The dal thickens upon cooling, so it is best to stop cooking it when it is still runny.
3. If the heat from the green chillies is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.
4. You may skip the coriander powder. Some families use it, while some others don’t – from what I read on the Internet. I liked the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal with a bit of coriander powder in it, though.
5. A couple of small onions, sliced thin and fried, can be added to the Hyderabadi Khatti Dal too, along with the tempering.
6. Adjust the quantity of tamarind you use, depending upon personal taste preferences. It is crucial to use just the right amount of tamarind – use too little and the flavours of the dal will not come through brilliantly; use too much and the taste of the dal will be impacted.
7. Don’t forget to keep the dal covered for some time, after tempering it. This is an important step, which helps the dal gather flavours from the garlic and the other ingredients added in the tempering.
8. This Hyderabadi Khatti Dal can be prepared using either moong dal, toor dal or masoor dal or a mix of two or more types of lentils. I have used only toor dal here.
9. You can soak the toor dal, moong dal or masoor dal for 20-30 minutes before pressure-cooking it. I haven’t.
10. If you use oil in the tempering instead of ghee, this is an entirely vegan recipe, suitable to those following a plant-based diet. This recipe can easily be made gluten-free too, by skipping the asafoetida used in the tempering. If you can get your hands on gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!